A Boeing 777 airliner of the American Delta Company emptied its fuel Tuesday over a Los Angeles suburb, in preparation for an emergency landing.
The fuel discharge injured about 20 children and 10 adults in a primary school yard with skin irritation and slight breathing difficulties.
A spokesman for the airline said the flight “Delta 89” was heading to Shanghai, China, when it “ran into engine problems” after taking off, forcing it to return to Los Angeles airport.
He added that the plane landed safely around 12 noon local time, but before that it emptied its tanks of fuel “as stipulated in the procedures followed” in order to reduce its cargo and reduce risks in the event it was forced to implement an emergency landing.
But quantities of this fuel fell over the Kodahi Elementary School, 25 km east of Los Angeles Airport.
The firefighting teams confirmed that about twenty children and eleven adults were afflicted with skin irritation or breathing difficulties due to the fuel thrown by the plane, but all their injuries were slight, as “there was no need for any of them to be hospitalized.”
The Los Angeles school district said the students and a number of school staff were in the yard when the plane emptied its fuel, and that “they may have been exposed to fuel mist or inhaled its fumes.”
Likewise, the fuel that the plane emptied from a “relatively low” altitude, according to the fire brigades, also hit another school south of Los Angeles, but without any of its students or staff affected.
The US Civil Aviation Surveillance Agency (FAA) was quick to announce that it had opened an investigation into the accident.
The agency said in a tweet on Twitter that “there are specific measures related to the discharge of aircraft fuel departing or coming from all major American airports.”
She added that “these procedures stipulate that the fuel must be emptied into well-defined uninhabited areas, usually at high altitudes, so that the fuel evaporates and disperses before touching the ground.”