The incident happened at Park Avenue Elementary in Cudahy, California, just after noon on Tuesday, inspector Sean Ferguson of the Los Angeles County Fire Department told CNN. Seventeen children received minor injuries from the dump, and six adults were also injured.
While the children were playing, a plane approaching Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) dumped the fuel, which fell over the group. The victims were treated by dozens of firefighters and paramedics at the school, which is about 19 miles east of the airport.
A hazardous materials team went to the school and is testing the liquid, Ferguson said. In a written statement, the Los Angeles Unified School District said educators are checking each classroom to make sure no injuries were missed. The district’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety is also responding.
Video posted on YouTube shows the plane overhead with white streaks coming from the tips of the wings. Alan De Leon, who shot the video, told CNN he heard a loud whistle, smelled jet fuel and felt irritation in his eyes.
The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that Delta Flight 89 bound for Shanghai, China, declared an emergency shortly after takeoff and returned to LAX. The agency could not immediately confirm the reports that fuel was dumped from the jet.
Flight 89 experienced an engine issue, requiring it to return to LAX, said Delta Air Lines spokesman Adrian Gee. He said the flight landed safely after an “emergency fuel release to reduce landing weight.”
David Soucie, an aviation safety analyst, told CNN there are maximum takeoff and landing weights for aircraft, so in order for a plane with full fuel tanks to land, it must dump the fuel to avoid potentially crashing upon landing.
There are rules about where the fuel can be dumped, he said, but if a plane declares an emergency — which Flight 89 did — it can be dumped at any point. He also estimated the plane was probably about 4,000 to 5,000 feet in the air. If the plane had been higher, at 10,000 feet, the fuel would never have reached the ground because it’s atomized as it is released from the wings.
CNN’s Chuck Johnston, Stephanie Elam, Julia Jones, David Williams, Jon Passantino and Jennifer Selva contributed to this report.