A Delta plane on its way to Los Angeles International Airport for an emergency landing on Tuesday ended up dropping jet fuel on kids in an elementary school playground.
The Boeing 777 plane, Delta Flight 89, had initially taken off from LAX and was headed to Shanghai with more than 140 passengers when it was forced to turn around and head back due to an engine issue, Delta and the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Shortly after takeoff, Flight 89 from LAX to Shanghai experienced an engine issue requiring the aircraft to return quickly to LAX,” Delta said in a statement. “The aircraft landed safely after a release of fuel, which was required as part of normal procedure to reach a safe landing weight. Delta is in touch with Los Angeles World Airports and the LA County Fire Department as well as community leaders, and shares concerns regarding reports of minor injuries to adults and children at schools in the area.”
According to The Times, an LAFD firefighter said the plane was “reporting a compressor stall,” which can cause the loss of airflow through an engine and, ultimately, engine failure. A passenger on the plane told the paper he heard a popping sound and “I knew that wasn’t good. The pilot came on a couple minutes later and said we were going back to LAX, and that was that.”
The plane never reached above 8,000 feet, the LA Times reported and was only about 2,300 feet when it flew over the school at 11:53 a.m. The flight, which is about 13 hours nonstop, flew for about 25 minutes.
While the plane was heading back, the paper reported several students at the Park Avenue Elementary School in Cudahy were doused with the jet fuel. At the school, the Los Angeles County Fire Department treated 20 children and 11 adults for minor injuries, with no one going to the hospital. In addition, the Times reported more people were affected, including several at other elementary schools and a high school.
“We came out and we were playing, and the airplane was outside and we thought it was rain, but then we knew it was throwing gas on us, and everybody started to run,” one 11-year-old Park Avenue Elementary School sixth grader told the paper. “We went to the auditorium and we knew what happened. We went back to class. We stayed for one hour and then we went home.”
He added: “Yeah, it smelled bad… It wasn’t water.”
In its statement, Delta said people or property owners who were affected by the release of the jet fuel can contact the airline.