Elementary school children were doused with jet fuel, as an airplane returning to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) had to make an emergency landing. Delta Flight 89 had just taken off from LAX and was en route to Shanghai when it turned around and headed back to the L.A. airport, due to engine trouble.
Several students playing outside of Park Avenue Elementary School in Cudahy were doused with fuel after the Boeing 777 jet emptied its fuel tank. Releasing of jet fuel is a routine procedure to reach a safe landing weight. However, since the plane was on its way to China, which is a 13-hour flight, the plane dumped approximately 12 hours of fuel.
The L.A. County Fire Department, as well as community leaders, have expressed concerns over reports of injuries to adults and children at schools in the area who were affected by the fuel dump. A total of 60 individuals were treated for injuries, 20 of them being children.
Paramedics headed to Park Avenue Elementary School immediately after reports were made, where 20 children and 11 adults received treatment for injuries. Two Park Avenue classes were outside for gym class when fuel begin pouring from the sky just before noon. Students and staff were told to stay inside until further notice. However, the odor coming from the gas permeated the school building as the fuel soaked into the ground.
After the incident, other students reported experiencing headaches and discomfort due to the fuel odor emanating from the school grounds. The chemicals have already worked their way into the soil, which has many concerned about what will happen if the fuel gets into the water supply.
Normally, when pilots dump fuel, they do it at a minimum of 10,000 feet over water, so the fuel turns into mist and is far away from populated areas.
If this incident had occurred in Florida, and the fuel had polluted the groundwater, children and individuals effected would have the right to sue for damages, including personal injury damages under Florida’s Water Quality Assurance Act, a 1983 law designed to protect groundwater quality.
Most recently, our firm was able to obtain a $5.2 million judgment (Lieupo v. Simon’s Trucking, Inc. No. SC18-657) for personal injury damages under Florida’s Water Quality Assurance Act. Our client, who was a tow truck driver in 2011 spent over 14 hours removing wreckage from an accident involving a tractor-trailer that was carrying 800 car batteries. The collision resulted in an explosion of corrosive battery acid, and after this liquid was mixed with water used to extinguish the flames, the result was catastrophic.
The chemicals at the scene were so strong that our client’s clothing and boots were crumbling and falling apart the next day. His skin began to sting shortly after, which was found to be a direct result from the exposure to sulfuric acid. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that individuals should not be restricted in their remedies sought and could sue for all types of damages under Florida’s Water Quality Assurance Act, including personal injury damages sustained in this type of situation, which would also include injuries that could have been sustained had this type of fuel dump occurred on Florida land.