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Delta Airlines Sued By Teachers After Fuel Dump Injures Dozens of Kids, Educators

— January 19, 2020

In their suit, the teachers describe having to keep dozens of screaming, crying children under control.

Four Los Angeles-area teachers are suing Delta Airlines after a China-bound plane dumped jet fuel over playgrounds and schools.

In their complaint, the Park Avenue Elementary teachers say they suffered the physical and emotional after-effects of the fuel dump, which took place an unsafe altitude. Their lawsuit recounts how they could feel the fuel on their clothes, leeching into their skin and eyes. Exposure left them dizzy, nauseated and, later on, ill.

Several students under their care—and at other schools, too—reportedly screamed and cried after coming into contact with the fuel.

“They immediately rushed their students indoors and did their best to decontaminate the children who were screaming and crying,” said the teachers’ attorney, Gloria Allred. “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.”

Allred says her clients continue to suffer, worried they may experience long-term health problems.

“They also suffered severe emotional distress from the knowledge that they had involuntarily ingested toxins,” Allred said in a statement on Friday. “Their severe emotional distress includes reasonable fear that the exposure to and ingestion of jet fuel might produce serious health consequences in the future.”

Along with breaking protocol by allowing a fuel dump at an unsafe altitude—8,000 feet is standard, since petrol will vaporize by the time it reaches ground—the lawsuit accuses Delta of negligence for allowing the plane to depart in the first place.

A Delta aircraft. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user:Eddie Maloney. (CCA-BY-2.0).

NBC notes that Delta Flight 89—which departed LAX for Shanghai on Tuesday—experienced engine trouble shortly after take-off. The pilot informed air traffic control of an in-flight emergency and requested permission to return to the airport.

However, the pilot didn’t inform controllers that the aircraft needed to dump fuel in order to lighten its load for landing—despite being specifically asked.

“We’ve got it all under control,” the lawsuit claims the pilot said.

Allred says that, had Delta’s pilot appropriately informed air traffic control, the aircraft would’ve been directed to a safe area and altitude from which it could dump fuel. Instead, the pilot dumped at around 2,000 feet with several schools in the plane’s flight path.

One of the teachers in the suit told NBC that her fifth-grade teachers initially thought the incoming fuel was rain. They looked up, “only to have noxious liquid then overwhelm [their] eyes, mouths, noses, lungs and skin.”

“I immediately began to rush my students indoors, as the fumes were stifling,” the teacher said. “Students began screaming and crying because their eyes and skin were burning. Fear, dread, panic, and helplessness ensued.”

The lawsuit is seeking compensatory damages for the teachers.

The Washington Examiner notes that the incident remains under investigation by the Federal Aviation Authority.


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