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Children in P.E. class showered with jet fuel: ‘We thought it was rain’

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Josue Burgos was in physical education class at Park Avenue Elementary School in Cudahy when he felt what seemed at first to be rain.

Then he looked up and saw a jetliner flying above.

“We came out and we were playing and the airplane was outside and we thought it was rain, but then we knew it was throwing gas on us and everybody started to run,” Josue, 11, said. “We went to the auditorium and we knew what happened. We went back to class. We stayed for one hour and then we went home.”

This was the scene at the campus when fuel was dumped from Delta Flight 89 as it made an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department said more than 70 firefighters and paramedics raced to the school, and 17 children and nine adults were treated for minor injuries. No one was taken to the hospital.

Department spokesman Nicholas Prange said two classes were outside when the liquid rained down shortly before noon. Students and staff were instructed to go indoors and remain there for the time being.

The jet had taken off from LAX with 149 passengers on board and was en route to Shanghai when it turned around and headed back to the airport. It landed safely.

Park was one of at least three campuses affected, said Los Angeles police Sgt. Rudy Perez. The others were 93rd Street Elementary and Jordan High School, both in Los Angeles. A total of about 40 people were treated by the Fire Department for inhalation.

Josue said the fuel landed on his sweater, shirt and shorts and the odor was immediately noticeable.

“Yeah, it smelled bad,” he said. “It wasn’t water.”

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