LAUSD Employees Sue Over Delta Fuel Dump

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Eight Los Angeles Unified employees have filed a lawsuit against Delta Air Lines Inc. over the alleged dumping of fuel by one of its airliners in January.

The plaintiffs listed in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed 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 negligence, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, strict liability and public nuisance. The plaintiffs seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The lawsuit was filed after an incident involving a Delta Boeing 777 jet that was en route to Shanghai on Jan 14. According to a Delta representative, pilots were forced to dump fuel after one of the jumbo jet's twin engines suffered a compressor stall, forcing the jet to return to Los Angeles International Airport where it had just departed.

The pilots of Flight 89 declared an emergency and shut down one of the engines. However, because the plane was too heavy, the pilots were forced to dump roughly 15,000 gallons of aviation fuel over an altitude of around 2,000 feet over South Gate and Cudahy.

The jet was able to make an emergency landing back at LAX without further incident.

According to the lawsuit filed by the plaintiffs, “The fuel dump demonstrated a conscious disregard of the safety of the people in the neighborhoods below the aircraft, including plaintiffs."

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.

At least one plaintiff, Avant, claims in the lawsuit of suffering from flashbacks of the children he assisted, who were coughing and crying. The plaintiffs are also concerned about the longterm health effects of the exposure to the jet fuel, which has caused continuing emotional and psychological harm.

Sanchez, the principal of 93rd Street School, was “shocked at the jet fuel raining down on the campus,” the suit states. The principal led the effort to move children to safety, and assisted in providing first aid, and helped to comfort and organize the students staff and teachers.

The lawsuit also states that 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.

Several other lawsuits were previously filed by other plaintiffs against Delta stemming from the fuel dump.

Photo: Getty Images


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