Suicide attempt and fire cause delays to over 3,000 flights in Chicago

By Connie Macatula De Leon, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Sept. 29, 2014

CHICAGO – Chicago O’Hare has just regained its title as the world’s busiest airport, but a fire at an air-traffic control center crippled air service in and out of Chicago on Friday, causing over 3,000 flights to get cancelled and delayed.

36-year-old Brian Howard, the alleged suspect, remains in the hospital with self-inflicted wounds.

According to the FBI, Howard, a contractual employee for the control center who has been with the company for eight years, set fire the basement of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) facility and cut the radar feed that forced O’Hare and Midway airports to cease operations.

The affidavit says that a private Facebook message was sent to one of Howard’s relatives that reads:

“Take a hard look in the mirror, I have. And this is why I am about to take out ZAU [the three-letter identification for the control center] and my life. … So I’m gonna smoke this blunt and move on, take care everyone.”

He was charged with destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities.

The unexpected turn of events caused kababayans here major inconvenience.

Marvin Ventura was in the plane already when the plane attendant announced that their flight had been cancelled.

“Susunduin ko yung mag ina ko sa New Jersey,” said Ventura. “Nakaupo na kami, ready na kami lumipad then pinalabas kami.”

Ventura says it took great pains to rebook a flight.

“Mahaba ang linya, sobrang haba; as in from the kiosk all the way mga 100 feet all the way up pa nakalinya lahat ng tao,” recalled Ventura. “Naghintay ako isa’t kalahating oras just to book the flight. Pag tumawag ako, two hours ang waiting time. Ang daming hassle. Nakakapagod. Kawawa yung mga matatanda, kasi naghahanap sila ng mga bagahe nila, lumilinya sila ng matagal sa pagkahabang linya, kawawa yung mga may pamilya, yung mga bata.”

The FAA has set a target to return Chicago Center to full service by October 13.

While damages are being repaired and managed, the FAA is working with other large Terminal Radar Approach Control facilities in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Indiana and Ohio.

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