Man With Self-Inflicted Wound Found At Chicago-Area FAA Site; Charges Filed

 

Crews responding to a fire Friday at an air traffic control facility in suburban Chicago discovered a man in the basement with a self-inflicted wound.  All flight traffic at both city airports was delayed by hours.

The early morning fire forced the evacuation of the control center in Aurora, about 40 miles west of downtown Chicago. Emergency crews found a man in the basement with a self-inflicted wound and took him to a hospital.

The fire started in the basement of the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, Dan Ferrelli said in an emailed statement. The center was evacuated.
 
Ferrelli gave no details on the man's injuries, but said they were not caused by a gunshot. He was taken to a hospital.
 
Aurora Police Chief Gregory Thomas told reporters later that the man is a contract employee at the facility and is suspected of starting the fire intentionally.
 
Another employee of the facility was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, Ferrelli said.

UPDATE - According to the Chicago Sun Times, flights resumed at 10:30 at a 'reduced rate.'

Willard Airport Director Steve Wanzek says all six flights involving Chicago were cancelled today.  He says only 15 to 20 larger flights an hour were being allowed to land at the Chicago airports.

Meanwhile, Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington released a statement:

"All departing flights for the remainder of today (9/26/14) from CIRA are cancelled due to this morning’s fire at the Air Traffic Control Chicago Center.  As of this writing, 2:02 p.m.  Delta has also cancelled all their inbound flights for today which will impact the early morning departures for tomorrow (Saturday, 9/27).  All ticketed passengers should contact their airline for more information."

Travelers stranded by the shutdown of a suburban Chicago air traffic control facility expressed frustration Friday and amazement that the closure of a single facility could cause so much disruption to the nation's air network.
 
At O'Hare International Airport, long lines formed at ticket counters, and some passengers simply gave up and returned home.
 
Brothers Glenn and Gary Campbell, of suburban Chicago, had planned to travel to the Orlando, Florida, area to attend their father's 80th birthday party. Instead, they settled for refunds.
 
"That it is so easy to disrupt the system is disturbing,'' said Gary Campbell, a carpenter from Crystal Lake. ``They need to see how to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again.''
 
John Kois, 36, of Seattle, had planned to spend a weekend with his girlfriend in Detroit. The financial analyst cut his losses and decided to rent a car and drive the four hours.
 
"What are you going to do?'' said Kois, waiting to retrieve bags he had checked in before the flights were cancelled. "You make the best of it.''
 
Jon Sciarrini said his homebound flight to Dallas had been delayed, and he didn't know whether he should wait or try to arrange another flight.
 
"It's pretty frustrating  - a little like being in purgatory,'' the IT specialist said.

UPDATE - (6:30 pm) Authorities say charges have been filed against a 36-year-old Naperville, Illinois, man in connection with a fire at a suburban Chicago air traffic control center that brought two of the nation's busiest airports to a halt Friday.

An FBI spokeswoman says in a news release that Brian Howard was charged Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago. He faces one count of destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities, a felony offense.

The FBI says that Howard remains hospitalized due to his injuries and that no court date for him has been scheduled. 

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk issued a statement, calling for an immediate investigation.

“As the busiest airport in the world, Chicago O'Hare International Airport cannot be brought to a screeching halt. I want to see not only an immediate review by the FAA of the screening process at the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, but also a report within 30 days outlining changes the FAA will make to prevent any one individual from having this type of impact on the heart of the United States economy.

Story source: AP