ATLANTA — Four teachers have filed a lawsuit against Delta Air Lines for dumping jet fuel over the school where they work.
In the incident last week, Delta Flight 89 from Los Angeles to Shanghai had an engine issue shortly after takeoff that required a quick return to Los Angeles International Airport. The plane released fuel to reach a safe landing weight, exposing children in school and adults on the ground to the fuel vapor before the plane landed safely back at LAX.
The plaintiffs — Lisette Barajas, Laura Guzman, Mariana de la Torre and Anabel Samperio — are teachers who work at Park Avenue Elementary School in Cudahy, California, about 15 miles east of LAX. Represented by high-profile attorney Gloria Allred, the teachers allege in the suit that they were taking students to the playground for P.E. and “were coated with jet fuel dumped from Flight 89.”
“The plaintiffs could feel the fuel on their clothes, flesh, eyes and skin,” says the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court. “Fuel penetrated their mouths and noses as well, producing a lasting and severe irritation, and a lasting and noxious taste and smell. The coating of fuel caused them to feel sick, dizzy, and nauseated” and caused breathing difficulties and emotional distress, the suit alleges.
“They immediately rushed their students indoors and did their best to decontaminate the children who were screaming and crying,” Allred said in a written statement. “Their severe emotional distress includes the reasonable fear that the exposure to and ingestion of jet fuel might produce serious health consequences in the future.”
Delta declined to comment in response to the lawsuit. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident.
The lawsuit alleges negligence and seeks an unspecified amount of damages and legal expenses. It alleges Delta had a duty to train and supervise pilots on safe procedures for dumping fuel to avoid harm to those on the ground and that pilots “were under a duty to avoid dumping jet fuel from aircraft in flight over populated areas … especially when schools were located in those areas.” The plane was at an altitude low enough that the fuel did not have time to evaporate before hitting the ground.
The suit also alleges that the engine problem was detected before the flight took off “and should have resulted in a decision for the plane not to take off at all.”