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‘I thought it was a terrorist attack’: California teachers sue Delta after plane showers school children with jet fuel

© Reuters / Mike Blake; Reuters / Social media

Four southern California teachers have filed a lawsuit against Delta Air Lines after a Boeing 777 jettisoned its fuel over several schools near Los Angeles, drenching staff and scores of children in the volatile liquid.

Filed on Friday by attorney Gloria Allred, the suit alleges the crew of Delta Flight 89 was negligent to dump the fuel when and where it did, arguing the toxic substance led teachers and students to become “sick, dizzy and nauseated,” producing “a lasting and severe irritation and a lasting and noxious taste and smell.”

“A Delta Air Lines pilot flying at a relatively low altitude and through clear skies dumped massive amounts of toxic jet fuel onto teachers, the school where they worked, onto the children who were in their care, and onto the neighborhood below the jet airplane,” Allred said at a presser announcing the suit on Friday.

The crew of the Delta flight, which encountered an engine malfunction not long after taking off from the LAX airport en route to Shanghai, has come under fire after audio surfaced on Thursday detailing the plane’s communications with air traffic control. Asked whether he needed to “hold and burn fuel” before making an emergency landing, the Delta pilot gave a clear “negative.” It remains unclear why the pilot decided to dump the fuel after that point.

“Our lawsuit alleges that the Delta pilot notificed air traffic control personnel of the need for the aircraft to return to Los Angeles International Airport, but the pilot did not inform air traffic personnel of any need to dump fuel in order to lighten the plane for landing,” despite being explicitly asked, Allred said.

The four teachers, who have each requested anonymity in the case, are employees of Park Avenue Elementary in Cudahy, a suburb of Los Angeles.

While none required emergency treatment, some 60 students and staff members from six different schools were injured in the bizarre mishap last Tuesday, with one of the Park Avenue teachers suffering “recurring symptoms” after the incident.

“I began feeling a light drizzle on my hair, my face, my body – I thought it was rain. And then I caught the scent of fuel,” one teacher, who has taught at Park Avenue Elementary for 21 years, said at the press conference.


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