A Los Angeles resident who says he was covered in jet fuel after a Delta Air Lines Boeing 777 dumped fuel over the area in 2020 is suing the airline for severe and lasting injuries. Gerald Castaneda, of Pico Rivera in southeastern Los Angeles, is seeking unspecified damages for negligence, personal injury, and property damage.
Another lawsuit resulting from now-notorious fuel dumping incident
According to Los Angeles news outlet Fox 11, Mr Castaneda was at his Pico Rivera residence when he was “doused with fuel” dumped from the Delta Boeing on January 14, 2020.
Delta Air Lines has confirmed a Boeing 777 bound for Shanghai dumped approximately 15,000 gallons of fuel at just 2,000 feet over areas of metropolitan Los Angeles on the day. The pilots had shut down one of the plane’s two engines because of a compressor stall.
“Shortly after takeoff, Flight 89 from LAX to Shanghai experienced an engine issue requiring the aircraft to return quickly to LAX. The aircraft landed safely after a release of fuel, which was required as part of normal procedure to reach a safe landing weight,” said a Delta spokesperson at the time about the incident.
But Delta did anticipate the fallout from the decision to dump fuel over such a heavily populated area? In addition to Mr Castaneda’s lawsuit last week, emergency response teams treated at least 60 people, including children, at several Cudahy and South Los Angeles schools after receiving a spray from the Delta Air Lines jet.
“I am distraught to learn that an airplane returning to LAX has dropped engine fuel on children at schools,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis at the time.
Decision to dump fuel over populated area puzzles experts
Separately, groups of teachers and students went on to sue Delta. People puzzled the pilot’s decision to dump the fuel over built-up areas rather than heading out of sea. At the time, the pilots confirmed that the aircraft was under control in recorded communications to LAX ATC, and the engine shutdown was “not critical.”
“No one is going to dump fuel where these guys did it over populated areas and schools. It’s a pretty outrageous thing,” Ross Aimer, CEO of Aero Consulting Experts, told Associated Press. “They should have gone over the ocean or landed heavyweight.”
“I began feeling a light drizzle on my hair, my face, my body,” said a Park Avenue Elementary School teacher at a media conference in 2020. “I thought it was rain. And then I caught the scent of fuel. I started yelling for my students to come back inside the building. I didn’t know where the smell was coming from. So I thought, ‘Oh my God, it must be a terrorist attack.’”
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Allegations Delta pilots did not consider the welfare of the people below them
Lawyers representing several students suing Delta Air Lines said the pilots didn’t tell LAX ATC about the need to dump fuel. Instead, they declared there was no need to dump any fuel. The lawyers also allege the pilots made no effort to relocate the plane to a more appropriate dumping zone. Further, they say the pilots made the dump without regard to the health and safety of the people below.
In the immediate washup, Delta Air Lines said they shared the authorities’ concerns about reported injuries to people on the ground. The airline also said it would investigate the incident.
According to Gerald Castaneda’s lawsuit, the fuel dump resulted in him requiring medical care and caused him to lose income.