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Chicago Airport Fire Charged to Suicidal Control Center Worker

Image: Chicago Airport Fire Charged to Suicidal Control Center Worker
The arrival and departure display at O'Hare International Airport shows a list of cancelled flights on September 27, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 29 Sep 2014 08:55 AM

Federal authorities charged a suicidal worker with setting the fire at one of the world's busiest airport control centers, causing thousands of flights to be canceled and leaving air traffic tangled throughout the Midwest.

Brian Howard, 36, was accused of setting the fire at the Federal Aviation Administration Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, Illinois, according to CBS News. The blaze crippled the facility, which directs regional air traffic throughout the Midwest, and caused it to be evacuated.

The fire forced the grounding of as many as 2,000 flights by United, American Airlines, Delta and Southwest at Chicago's O'Hare International and Midway Airports which were thronged with stranded passengers, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Howard was hospitalized with self-inflicted wounds, the Tribune reported. The newspaper said he recently found out he was being transferred to Hawaii from the Aurora facility where he had worked for eight years.

Howard arrived at the radar center in Aurora about 5 a.m. Friday with a suitcase, according to an FBI affidavit. He then posted a message on Facebook saying he planned to kill himself and threatened to take down "ZAU," a reference to the control center's call signal, according to the Tribune.

The affidavit stated that one of Howard's relatives saw the Facebook message and immediately called Naperville police, but authorities received an emergency call from the control center to report a fire shortly afterward, noted the Tribune.

Aurora fire officials said once they arrived, they were able to follow a bloody trail to locate Howard, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The federal complaint said Howard had wounds to his arms and was found "actively slicing his throat."

"We have to investigate first to find out the nature of the damage," Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn told the Sun-Times. "This is obviously a deranged individual who was seeking to do great harm."

The Aurora control center handles air traffic for flights traveling 5,000 feet or higher all over the Midwest and is considered a critical facility to air travel nationwide because of its central location, The Sun-Times noted.

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Federal authorities charged a suicidal worker with setting the fire at one of the world's busiest airport control centers, causing thousands of flights to be canceled and leaving air traffic tangled throughout the Midwest.
chicago, airport, fire, charged, suicidal, worker
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2014-55-29
Monday, 29 Sep 2014 08:55 AM
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