CUDAHY, Calif. – Fuel dumped by an airliner making an emergency return Tuesday to Los Angeles International Airport due to an engine problem fell onto three schools, causing minor irritation to 40 children and adults, officials said.
The incident occurred around noon in the Cudahy area of southeastern Los Angeles County, about 13 miles (21 kilometres east of the airport.
Los Angeles Unified School District police Sgt. Rudy Perez said 28 students and adults were affected at Park Avenue Elementary and 12 others at 93rd Street Elementary, but none needed to be taken to hospitals.
Jordan High was also affected but no one was treated there, he said.
Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Henry Narvaez said the fuel had dissipated by the time it reached the ground but the children and adults could smell it.
Narvaez said the patients complained of mild skin irritation and were treated with soap and water.
There were no evacuation orders for the immediate area .
The school district said in a statement that paramedics were immediately called to treat anyone complaining of “skin irritation or breathing problems” and that its environmental health and safety office also responded.
Park Avenue sixth-grader Diego Martinez said he and his classmates were outside for physical education class when they saw the airplane flying low overhead.
“It was very close,” he said.
Shortly afterwards the air filled with the pungent odor of fuel.
“It was very strong, the odor,” the 12-year-old said.
Diego wasn’t doused but some of his friends complained that their skin was itching.
The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that Delta Air Lines Flight 89 headed to Shanghai, China, declared an emergency after leaving Los Angeles International Airport, returned and landed without incident.
The FAA said it was looking into the reports of schoolchildren being affected.
Delta Air Lines said in a statement that Flight 89 “experienced an engine issue requiring the aircraft to return to LAX. The aircraft landed safely after an emergency fuel release to reduce landing weight.”
The FlightAware website’s track of the flight showed the jet took off over the ocean and made an immediate turn back toward land and circled back over Southern California to approach the airport from the east.
AP reporters John Antczak and Chris Weber contributed to this report from Los Angeles.