LAUSD Employees Sue Delta Air Lines Over Jet-Fuel Dump in South LA

A group of Los Angeles Unified employees are the latest people to sue Delta Air Lines Inc. over the alleged dumping of fuel by one of its airliners in January. The plaintiffs in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed on Monday are Victor Sanchez, an LAUSD principal; Rose Amah, an LAUSD assistant principal; LAUSD police officers Donovan Avant, Jorge Flores, Samuel Jimenez, Thomas Langston and Roger Lee; teacher Fabiola Mejia; and two minor students.

The suit alleges negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, strict liability and public nuisance. The plaintiffs seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

A Delta representative previously said that the pilots were forced to dump fuel over an urban area to reduce the plane’s weight before the return landing.

At least 60 people were treated for skin irritation after a Delta plane dumped fuel over neighborhoods and schools while making an emergency return to LAX. 

The Delta Boeing 777 jet was en route to Shanghai on Jan. 14, but soon after takeoff from Los Angeles International Airport for the 13-hour, 6,500-mile flight, the pilots of Flight 89 declared an emergency and shut down one of the jumbo jet’s two engines because of a compressor stall.

Minutes later, the plane dumped roughly 15,000 gallons of aviation fuel at an altitude of about 2,000 feet over a wide area, including South Gate and Cudahy. The jet made a successful emergency landing at LAX.

“The fuel dump demonstrated a conscious disregard of the safety of the people in the neighborhoods below the aircraft, including plaintiffs,” the suit states.

The LAUSD police officers were dispatched to various schools amid the reports of the falling fuel, including 93rd Street Elementary School, where Avant was sent, the suit states.

“These young children asked (Avant) if they were going to die and if they had experienced a terrorist attack,” the suit states.

Avant suffers from flashbacks of the children he assisted coughing and crying and he remains concerned about the longterm health effects of the exposure to the jet fuel, causing him continuing emotional and psychological harms, the suit states.

Many at the meeting were angered by the lack of answers from Delta, concerned about the long term effects from exposure to the fuel. 

Sanchez, the principal of 93rd Street School, was “shocked at the jet fuel raining down on the campus,” the suit states.

Sanchez led efforts to move the children to safety, assisted in providing first aid, comforted and organized students, staff, and teachers, the suit states.

Sanchez had direct contact with the fuel and breathed in droplets, causing him to subsequently have joint swelling, headaches, nausea and lack of sleep, according to the complaint.

The “traumatic experience” left Sanchez emotionally exhausted and he took a five-week leave of absence and started therapy to manage extreme stress, the suit states.

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