A contracted worker accused of setting a fire that shut down two airports is facing serious legal repercussions, according to local sources. The Illinois worker faces a felony charge after being arrested in connection with a fire that caused a ground stoppage at both O'Hare and Midway airports on September 26. So far, no court date has been scheduled as the individual is recovering from injuries.
According to the arrest report, the 36-year-old man is believed to have set some kind of fire at a suburban air traffic control center. The details of the alleged arson were not provided in this report. However, the effects of the fire were felt coast to coast as flights were grounded and otherwise delayed throughout most of the day. The FBI was called in to investigate the issue.
The man faces a single count of destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities, a felony under state and federal law. If convicted, the man could face serious jail time and will likely not be entitled to work in his field again. However, the investigation into this issue is not yet complete, and the man is recovering from injuries, which means a court date is not slated for the near future.
The details of this somewhat bizarre alleged crime have not been fully fleshed out as of this report, so it is difficult to foresee how it will play out. Illinois authorities and possibly also the FBI will have to prove that the man knowingly and intentionally set this fire in order to prosecute him on the felony charge. The defense will benefit from a more thorough understanding of the situation and what caused the fire; it may help to determine whether the issue was in fact accidental.
Source: The New York Times, "Illinois Worker Is Charged In Fire That Stalled Flights", , Sept. 27, 2014