LOS ANGELES — An airplane returning to Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday morning dropped jet fuel onto a school playground, striking several students at Park Avenue Elementary School in Cudahy, officials said.

Delta Flight 89 had taken off from LAX with 149 passengers on board and was en route to Shanghai when it turned around and headed back to the L.A. airport.

“Shortly after takeoff, Flight 89 from LAX to Shanghai experienced an engine issue requiring the aircraft to return to LAX,” Delta spokesperson Adrian Gee said. “The aircraft landed safely after an emergency fuel release to reduce landing weight.”

The Los Angeles County Fire Department said more than 70 firefighters and paramedics were at the school, and 17 children and nine adults were treated for minor injuries. No one was transported to the hospital.

L.A. City Fire was also at the scene. The agency’s spokesman, Nicholas Prange, said two classes were outside when the liquid rained down shortly before noon. Students and staff were instructed to go indoors and remain there for the time being.

Cudahy officials expressed disappointment over the incident and were demanding answers about why the fuel was dropped over the school.


Newly appointed Mayor Elizabeth Alcantar said the school was next door to Cudahy City Hall.

“I’m very upset,” she said in a phone interview. “This is an elementary school, these are small children.”

The incident hit a nerve in the community. Environmental injustices have long taken place in southeast Los Angeles County. For years, activists and residents fought for the closure of a battery recycling plant in the industrial city of Vernon because it emitted cancer-causing arsenic and lead, a potent neurotoxin, into nearby cities.

In the 1990s, Park Avenue Elementary School was closed for eight months because tar-like petroleum sludge began to seep up from the ground. The school was built on an old city dump site that contained petroleum-contaminated soil and several pockets of tar-like petroleum sludge.

“Why is it always our communities having to deal with the brunt of these issues?” Alcantar said.

The incident with the jet-fuel dump has raised questions about environmental safety and the flight path over Cudahy and other cities.

“Sadly, our entire community has been adversely impacted by this incident, including dozens of children. I am calling for a full federal investigation into the matter, and expect full accountability from responsible parties,” Cudahy City Council member Jack Guerrero said.

Los Angeles School Police said that, out of an abundance of caution, Jordan High School in Long Beach sheltered in place during the incident, but no students or faculty members were affected.

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