Disgruntled man flies plane into federal offices

February 19th, 2010 by

AUSTIN, Texas (www.vancouversun.com)– A Texas pilot with an apparent grudge against the U.S. government flew his single-engine plane into a tax office building Thursday, leaving two dead and 13 wounded and setting off a huge fireball.

Officials described the startling incident as a deliberate assault on a U.S. government institution, but authorities stressed the crash did not appear to have connections to international terrorism.

The pilot, who left an apparent suicide note on the Internet bitterly railing against the US authorities, was unaccounted for after the attack, as was one federal employee. Two of those wounded were in critical condition.

“The remains of two individuals have been found in the building,” said Candice Wade, a spokeswoman for Austin’s emergency management office, declining to confirm that the pilot was among the dead.

“They are not identified at this time.”

Early on, officials feared the plane crash might be connected to foreign terrorism and scrambled two F-16s from Houston’s Ellington Field. But officials later discounted the possibility of terrorism and focused on a civilian crime instead.

“There is no cause for alarm, no cause for panic,” police chief Art Acevedo told reporters in a televised news conference.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident, spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters on Air Force One, en route to a campaign appearance in Colorado. Gibbs said the Department of Homeland Security would continue to investigate. FBI officials in Washington said they were investigating Joseph Andrew Stack, identified as a software company engineer who lives in the Austin area. Stack was reportedly involved in a dispute with the IRS.

In a website posting, Stack writes that he has had enough, but doesn’t explain the nature of his argument with the IRS.

“I am finally ready to stop this insanity,” Stack wrote. “Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.”

At about 9:15 a.m. CST, Stack was believed to have set fire to his home with his wife, Sharon, and their daughter inside. Fire officials responded and the pair were saved.

Stack then apparently went to the local airport where he took a plane, most likely his own, then flew to Austin, officials said. Police said earlier reports that Stack stole a plane were incorrect.

Witnesses said the small craft appeared to sharply bank from the east across a highway. It hit the building in the lower floors just before 10 a.m. The plane was flying low.

“It’s very surreal,” Megan Riley, a witness to the crash, said in an interview with KXAN-TV.

The building was engulfed in flames after the crash. Firefighters poured into the structure to fight the blaze which burned for about 90 minutes before officials said it was contained.

The structure, known as the Echelon Building, has business and government offices, including those of the IRS.

Agence France-Presse and Los Angeles Times

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