The Delta plane, which was headed to Shanghai, experienced problems and had to turn around, the airline tells PEOPLE

By Joelle Goldstein
January 14, 2020 05:19 PM
Students who were impacted by the jet fuel dump

Dozens of students were injured after a Delta Airlines flight dumped jet fuel over several schools near the Los Angeles International Airport.

In total, 60 people across six schools in south Los Angeles were examined by emergency personnel on Tuesday.

“Shortly after takeoff, Flight 89 from LAX to Shanghai experienced an engine issue requiring the aircraft to return to LAX,” Delta tells PEOPLE in a statement. “The aircraft landed safely after an emergency fuel release to reduce landing weight.”

A follow-up statement from the airline indicated that the fuel release was “required as part of normal procedure to reach a safe landing weight” and that they were now working with officials in the area regarding those who were injured.

“We are in touch with Los Angeles World Airports and the LA County Fire Department and share concerns regarding reported minor injuries to adults and children at a school in the area,” the airline spokesperson added.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD) tells PEOPLE they responded to the scene at Park Avenue Elementary School just after 12:15 p.m. local time on Tuesday.

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Initial reports on the LACoFD’s Twitter said 16 first responders were at the school “assessing multiple patients after apparent fuel dump by aircraft on final approach to LAX hits playground.”

That number had more than tripled by 1 p.m., as the LACoFD confirmed that there were 70 firefighters and paramedics “on-scene and committed to providing care for those injured.”

At that time, officials said on Twitter they were working to determine what substance had dropped from the sky and onto the playground but noted that several reports mentioned the smell of jet fuel in the area.

The LACoFD also confirmed to PEOPLE that hazmat units were en route to the school to investigate.

Delta Airlines
Nicolas Economou/Getty Images

By 1:30 p.m., the LACoFD confirmed that a total of 26 people were being treated and that the substance dumped was, in fact, jet fuel.

“All minor injuries w/ no transports to local hospital from school,” they wrote on Twitter. “There are no evacuation orders for the immediate area. Substance was confirmed JET FUEL. Refer to school regarding plans for child pick-up.”

Later in the day, the LACoFD revealed that the number of patients had risen to 44, with minor injuries being reported from other schools in Los Angeles, including Tweedy Elementary and Gabriel Elementary in South Gate, as well as Graham Elementary in Florence Graham.

“All PTs below evaluated by FF and released w/ minor inj-denying xport to hosp. Park Ave Elem #Cudahy 31 patients (20 children & 11 adults) | Tweedy Elem #SouthGate 6 patients | Graham Elem #FlorenceGraham 1 adult patient | San Gabriel Elementary #SouthGate 6 patients,” the LACFD wrote.

The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) also reported that they treated 16 patients with minor injuries from Jordan High School and 93rd Elementary, bringing the total number of people affected to 60.

RELATED VIDEO: Delta Flight Emergency

The Federal Aviation Administration has several requirements in place for when a plane must dump fuel. In non-emergency cases, the plane is often redirected to fly a different route and must be a certain distance from other nearby aircraft, as well as at a particular altitude.

However, when the jet fuel dumping is an emergency, the planes don’t necessarily have to follow all of these requirements, the FAA states.

In a statement on their Twitter, the FAA confirmed that they were aware of the incident and have procedures in place for fuel dumping.

“The FAA is thoroughly investigating the circumstances behind today’s incident involving a Delta Airlines flight that was returning to Los Angeles International Airport. There are special fuel-dumping procedures for aircraft operating into and out of any major US airport,” an FAA spokesperson wrote. “These procedures call for fuel to be dumped over designated unpopulated areas, typically at higher altitudes so the fuel atomizes and disperses before it reaches the ground.”

Being exposed to jet fuel will likely cause a person to experience irritant contact dermatitis, according to DermNet NZ.

This condition occurs when the skin is damaged by chemical irritants, such as jet fuel. It’s often characterized by a rash with red blotchy skin, swelling, blistering, scaling, and possible burning.

Most wounds can be cleaned using water and a “specific remedy against the particular toxic chemical.” Compresses, creams, and ointments also can help promote healing, according to the site.