Formal charges filed in case of SUV on Pa. runway

June 19, 2012 - 4:16 PM

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man accused of crashing through a fence at Philadelphia International Airport and speeding down a runway was formally charged by federal authorities Tuesday with disrupting air traffic and endangering airport safety.

Kenneth Mazik, 24, crashed his Jeep through a locked airport gate on March 1 and drove down a runway at speeds of more than 100 mph as a plane was approaching from behind and just 500 feet above the runway, authorities said.

An air traffic controller quickly diverted the aircraft, which was preparing to land and about 20 seconds from touching down, and placed it in a holding pattern.

While Mazik led airport police on a chase along several runways, air traffic controllers diverted 75 planes into holding patterns and prevented the departures of 80 other aircraft, federal prosecutors said.

A phone call to Mazik's attorney seeking comment was not immediately returned Tuesday, but he has said his client was having irrational thoughts that people were chasing him.

Mazik, of the Philadelphia suburb of Chadds Ford, faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted, U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said in announcing the charges. A criminal complaint had been filed shortly after the incident but the charges were formally lodged on Tuesday.

"Mazik's actions caused significant disruption to the operation and services of the airport and caused financial expense and losses," the U.S. attorney's office said in a statement.

Mazik was initially charged by the Philadelphia district attorney's office but those charges were dropped when federal authorities took over the case. FBI investigators concluded that the incident was unrelated to terrorism.