Seventeen schoolchildren and nine adults were injured after a Delta aircraft dumped jet fuel onto a Los Angeles, California elementary school playground where the kids were playing, NBC News reports. All of the injuries were minor.
Delta Flight 89 departed Los Angeles International Airport, bound for Shanghai, on Tuesday, but experienced an unspecified engine issue and had to turn around. As the craft was approaching LAX for an emergency landing, it followed standard operating procedure and dumped its fuel, reducing the aircraft’s weight and lessening the odds of a fire should the landing go haywire.
Unfortunately for the children and adults at Park Avenue Elementary School, which is in the flight path of an LAX runway and was directly under the aircraft at the time, an unspecified amount of the fuel fell onto the kids, according to a tweet from the L.A. County Fire Department.
“Patient count updated to 17 children, 9 adults. All minor injuries w/ no transports to local hospital from school. There are no evacuation orders for the immediate area. Substance was confirmed JET FUEL,” the tweet reads.
Similarly, the Los Angeles Unified School district confirmed in a statement that some kids were injured by jet fuel.
“Students and staff were on the playground at the time and may have been sprayed by fuel or inhaled fumes,” the statement reads.
According to CNN, at least some of the children and adults suffered unspecified breathing issues from inhaling fumes from the fuel. Firefighters and paramedics, accompanied by a hazardous materials team, converged on the scene and treated the injured on-site. The hazmat team, meanwhile, is thoroughly checking the school and its grounds for any fuel left over.
YouTube user Alan De Leon took a video of the jet passing overhead. He said he heard a “loud whistle” and then smelled jet fuel and experienced irritation in his eyes.
Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines spokesman Adrian Gee confirms that one of its craft did, indeed, make an emergency landing at LAX and that the flight landed safely after an “emergency fuel release to reduce landing weight.”
Aviation safety analyst David Soucie says that there are maximum takeoff and landing weights for aircraft, and so any craft that makes an unscheduled landing must first dump its fuel in order to meet that weight.
Ordinarily, when an aircraft dumps its fuel, it’s done at an altitude of 10,000 feet or higher, where the fuel simply atomizes and doesn’t fall to the ground. Soucie estimates that the craft in this incident was flying at between 4,000 and 5,000 feet, allowing the dumped fuel to fall to the ground.