LOS ANGELES - A lawsuit was filed Friday against Delta Air Lines by four teachers at an elementary school drenched by jet fuel from an airliner preparing to make an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport.
The four say jet fuel rained down on them after it was jettisoned by the Boeing 777 that was returning to the airport shortly after takeoff .
They "could feel the fuel on their clothes, flesh, eyes and skin," the suit says. "Fuel penetrated their mouths and noses as well producing a lasting and severe irritation and a lasting and noxious taste and smell."
As a result, they became "sick, dizzy and nauseated." Though firefighters didn't transport any of the affected teachers or students from any of several schools that had been under the plane's flight path, one of the teachers said at a press conference said she sought medical help for recurring symptoms.
A total of 60 children and adults were treated by firefighters at five elementary and one high school in Cudahy, South Gate and Los Angeles after coming into contact with the fuel, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. All four of the teachers named in the suit worked at Park Avenue Elementary School in Cudahy, which had about half of the reported injuries.
The jet fuel was dumped Tuesday by Delta Flight 89 bound for Shanghai after pilots reported engine trouble shortly after takeoff. They requested an immediate return to the airport, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Though the plane landed safely, the FAA said it was investigating why pilots dumped fuel at a lower altitude than needed for it to disperse and told controllers they didn't need to jettison fuel.
The FAA said Friday it expects its investigation to take several weeks.
In a separate action, the agency that governs air quality in southern California, the South Coast Air Quality Management District said it issued a violation notice to Delta concerning the fuel dump of 15,000 gallons.
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Delta said it sent cleaning crews to the affected schools the evening after the incident. Communications between pilots and controllers posted online indicate the jetliner incurred what's known as a compressor stall, which was enough to trigger the request for an emergency landing. Pilots often jettison fuel in order to lighten the aircraft for landing.
The suit alleges negligence by Delta and does not specify the amount of damages being sought. Delta spokesman Adrian Gee said the airline had no comment on pending litigation.
Amateur video taken of the plane as it passed over southeast Los Angeles at low altitude shows fuel streaming from its wings as it lined up for landing at the airport.
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At the press conference, the teachers said about 30 students were on the playground at the time of the fuel dump. They said they thought it was drizzling, though rain hadn't been predicted. One said she hadn't seen the plane and ran out and looked to the sky with her arms extended before realizing the droplets were jet fuel.
"They immediately rushed their students indoors and did their best to decontaminate the children who were screaming and crying," said attorney Gloria Allred, who filed the suit. "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."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Delta fuel dump: Los Angeles teachers sue over fuel dropped on schools