Four teachers at an elementary school in Los Angeles, California are suing Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) after a China-bound Boeing 777 aircraft dumped fuel over playgrounds and schools during an emergency landing. The teachers, who have not been identified, say the airline was negligent and accused the pilot of failing to follow protocol. They are seeking compensatory damages for emotional anguish and distress.
The incident affected some 60 adults and children at multiple area schools, including five elementary and one high school in Cudahy, South Gate, and Los Angeles. About half of all injuries reported occurred at Park Avenue Elementary in Cudahy, some 17 miles from Los Angeles International Airport. All four of the teachers named in the lawsuit work at Park Avenue Elementary School.
According to the lawsuit, the teachers felt “sick, dizzy, and nauseated” after they were drenched by jet fuel. The lawsuit said, “Fuel penetrated their mouths and noses as well producing a lasting and severe irritation and a lasting and noxious taste and smell.” The lawsuit alleges the teachers had to tend to the injuries of their students before they could attend to their own needs. The individuals were treated by firefighters at the scene, but none affected were sent to the hospital.
An attorney for the teachers, Gloria Allred, commented, “They immediately rushed their students indoors and did their best to decontaminate the children who were screaming and crying. Even though the teachers were also contaminated and in pain from the toxic fumes and fuel, they assisted the children first and put their own safety last.” One of the four teachers had to seek medical attention for persistent symptoms.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the pilot’s decision to drop the fuel at around 2,000 feet, noting that they did not authorize the fuel dump. While fuel dumps of this nature are not uncommon, they typically happen at higher altitudes so the fuel will atomize before reaching the ground. Audio from the flight communications confirmed that the pilots said they would not need to lose fuel to safely land the aircraft. Allred said that if the pilot had properly alerted air traffic personnel on the ground, the flight would have been directed to a safe location and altitude from which it could dump fuel without posing a risk to the general public.