Crews Recover 2 Bodies in IRS Wreckage

Man believed to be furious with IRS crashes small plane into Austin building

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A small plane left a huge hole in the side of a 7-story office building in austin.

    A man believed to have a grudge against the Internal Revenue Service allegedly set fire to his home and then flew his airplane into a seven-story office building in Austin on Thursday morning.

    Emergency crews recovered two bodies from the wreckage. Austin Fire Department Battalion Chief Palmer Buck declined to discuss the identities of those found, but said Thursday night that authorities had "accounted for everybody."

    The pilot of the plane is presumed dead. The FBI tentatively identified the pilot as Joseph Stack, a 53-year-old Austin software engineer.

    One person who worked in the building had been missing. Authorities had earlier declined to identify the worker.

    Raw Video: Austin Plane Crash

    [DFW] Raw Video: Austin Plane Crash
    A small plane left a huge hole in the side of a 7-story office building in austin.

    Stack apparently penned a manifesto detailing his struggle with the IRS, taxation and the realization of the "American Nightmare" instead of the American Dream.

    Two people are hospitalized with critical injuries. Thirteen people were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

    Stack is believed to have set his Austin home on fire early Thursday, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The home eventually collapsed from fire damage.

    Federal investigators said Stack drove to the Georgetown Municipal Airport after leaving his home, got into a plan and flew directly toward the Austin office park. The plane left the airport at 9:40 a.m.

    Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford said the pilot did not file a flight plan. FAA records show that a Piper PA-28 Cherokee with the same tail number as the plane that flew into the building is registered to Joseph A. Stack.

    Two people were seriously injured in the crash; one was seriously burned on his back and was transported to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

    Concerns about terrorism in the Texas capital were fueled by fear and speculation of a larger, coordinated attack Thursday morning as investigators scrambled to understand how and why a plane crashed into a seven-story office building in northwest Austin. As investigators learned more, law enforcement officials in Austin urged locals to continue about their day -- saying the crash was a contained, isolated incident and that they were not at risk.

    Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo called the crash a "criminal act by a lone individual."

    Concerns of terrorism in the Texas capital were fueled by fear and speculation of a larger, coordinated attack Thursday morning as investigators scrambled to understand how and why a plane crashed into a seven-story office building in northwest Austin. As investigators learned more, law enforcement officials in Austin urged locals to continue about their day -- saying the crash was a contained, isolated incident and that they were not at risk.

    Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo called the crash a "criminal act by a lone individual."

    Gov. Rick Perry said Thursday that the crash shows the difficulty of balancing a free society with people's safety.

    "Our hope is the days of flying aircraft into buildings or other structures is over," he said. "You always have some exposure in a free society. So the balance is finding how to protect and also protect the freedoms and liberties.

    "The other side of that is people's safety. It is always a battle between anarchy and tyranny; always has been," he said.

    Rambling manifesto rails against IRS, government

    A federal law official said investigators were looking at the long anti-government screed and farewell note that Stack apparently posted earlier in the day as an explanation for what he was about to do.

    In it, the author cited run-ins he had with the IRS and ranted about the tax agency, government bailouts and corporate America's "thugs and plunderers."

    "I have had all I can stand," he wrote in the note, dated Thursday, adding: "I choose not to keep looking over my shoulder at `big brother' while he strips my carcass."

    The opening line of the manifesto attributed to Stack begins with, "If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt asking yourself, 'Why did this have to happen?'"

    For several pages, the author railed against the U.S. government before ending the diatribe with the words, "Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.  - Joe Stack (1956-2010)."

    At the request of the FBI, the manifesto has been removed from the original site -- but you can still read the entire manifesto here.  The Web site registrant was confirmed as Joe Stack through Who Is.

    Some of Stack's friends said Thursday they were unaware of his passionate feud with the IRS.

    Crash "felt like a bomb"

    The plane struck the Echelon I Building on Mopac and U.S. 183 at 9:56 a.m. Thursday. The collision shook the entire seven-story building, which was decimated by fire after the crash. Flames shot from the building, windows exploded, a huge pillar of black smoke rose over the city, and terrified workers rushed to get out.

    "It felt like a bomb blew off," said Peggy Walker, an IRS revenue officer who was sitting at her desk. "The ceiling caved in and windows blew in. We got up and ran."

    Witnesses described the plane as a small, single-engine, fixed-gear aircraft that was going really fast when it struck the building. An eyewitness who has been flying since he was in high school said he was across the highway in the parking lot of a Marie Callender's restaurant when he saw the aircraft pass over and nearly hit a parking lot light before banking into the building.

    "It was just hauling. It was a really speedy dive," said the witness. "It wacked right into Echelon III. A gigantic fireball came out about 50 feet wide; the windows blew out. It was a whoosh, a roar and a boom." 

    The entire outside of the second floor was gone on the side of the building where the plane hit. Support beams were bent inward. Venetian blinds dangled from blown-out windows, and large sections of the exterior were blackened with soot.

    Andrew Jacobson, an IRS revenue officer who was on the second floor when the plane hit with a "big whoomp" and then a second explosion, said about six people couldn't use the stairwell because of smoke and debris. He found a metal bar to break a window so the group could crawl out onto a concrete ledge, where they were rescued by firefighters. His bloody hands were bandaged.

    Perry lauded "first responders and everyday citizens" for acts of heroism, securing the area, evacuating the building and controlling the fire.

    The IRS, the CIA and FBI all have offices in that building complex, according to KXAN. Initial reports that indicated the FBI and CIA had offices in the building that was struck were incorrect. About 190 IRS employees work in the building.

    Air travel in and out of Austin was not been affected by the crash.

    Home of apparent pilot destroyed in fire

    The blaze at Stack's home, a red-brick house on a tree-lined street in a middle-class neighborhood, caved in the roof and blew out the windows.

    Elbert Hutchins, who lives one house away, said a woman believed to be Stack's wife and her teenage daughter drove up to the house before firefighters arrived.

    "They both were very, very distraught," said Hutchins, a retiree who said he didn't know the family well. "'That's our house,' they cried. 'That's our house!"'

    Red Cross spokeswoman Marty McKellips said the agency was treating two people who live in the house. She said they would not be commenting.

    "They're remarkably calm but they're clearly distraught. ... They're in need of some mental health assistance, and we're providing that," McKellips said.

    According to California state records, Stack had a troubled business history, twice starting software companies in California that ultimately were suspended by the state's tax board, one in 2000, the other in 2004. Also, his first wife filed for bankruptcy in 1999, listing a debt to the IRS of nearly $126,000.

    Jackie Vega with KXAN contributed to this report.

     


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