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Furious techie crashes plane into Texas tax building

Last updated on: February 19, 2010 10:08 IST

Image: Traffic moves by the site where the aircraft crashed into a Texas IRS building
Photographs: Ben Sklar / Reuters

Furious with the United States tax agency Internal Revenue Service, a software engineer crashed his small plane into a seven-storey building in Texas housing nearly 200 federal tax employees, igniting a raging fire that sent workers running for their lives.

The suicide attack left two people injured inside the building and another person unaccounted for. Officials in Houston are investigating whether the pilot, identified as Joseph Andrew Stack, 53, crashed the plane intentionally.

Stack was confirmed dead. At least one person who worked in the building was unaccounted for and two people were hospitalised, according to Austin Fire Department Division Chief Dawn Clopton.

A US law official said investigators were looking at a lengthy, anti-government 'manifesto' Stack is believed to have written on his website.

The message outlines problems with the IRS and says violence 'is the only answer.'

Text: PTI


'Take my pound of flesh, and sleep well'

Image: The seven-storey IRS building in Austin, Texas after being hit by an aircraft on Thursday
Photographs: Ben Sklar / Reuters

The site is titled, "Well Mr Big Brother IRS man ... take my pound of flesh and sleep well."

The note and other documents indicate Stack moved from California to Austin after the dot-com bust. Calls to the accountant and Stack's ex-wife were not immediately returned. Austin police declined to discuss the house fire and the internet manifesto.

About 190 IRS employees work at 9420 Research Boulevard, the building that Stack on Thursday crashed into. IRS spokesman Richard C Sanford said the agency is trying to account for all of its workers.



'Not an act of terrorism'

Image: FBI personnel talk to people near the site
Photographs: Ben Sklar / Reuters

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security said it did not believe the crash was an act of terrorism. US President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident. As a precaution, the Colorado-based North American Aerospace Defence Command launched two F-16 aircraft from Houston's Ellington Field, and was conducting an air patrol over the crash area.

Police said the situation was 'totally contained.' "This is an isolated incident, there is no cause for alarm," a spokesman for the Austin Police Department said during a news conference.

The structure that was hit houses private firms and government offices, including the IRS' criminal investigation unit. Austin Assistant Fire Chief Harry Evans said it appeared the plane struck the second floor. The building was heavily damaged, particularly the second and third floors. Officials said the IRS occupies the lower part of the building.

Police said two people were hospitalised from the building and one person was missing. IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman on Thursday released a statement saying the agency is still in the process of accounting for all of the agency's 190 employees.

'It was surreal, insane'

Image: The crash site
Photographs: Ben Sklar / Reuters

"We are working with law-enforcement agencies to fully investigate the events that led up to this plane crash," the statement read. Peggy Walker, an IRS revenue officer who works in the building told local media that she was sitting at her desk when the plane crashed. 'It felt like a bomb blew off. The ceiling caved in and windows blew in. We got up and ran,' she said," Farney said.

"Matt Farney, 39, who was in the parking lot of a nearby Home Depot, said he saw a low-flying private plane near some apartments and the office building just before it crashed. 'I figured he was going to buzz the apartments or he was showing off," Farney also said, adding that the plane dipped down.

"It was a ball of flames that was high or higher than the apartments. It was surreal. It was insane. ... It didn't look like he was out of control or anything." Chris Messner told a newspaper he was driving to work shortly before 10 am when the small yellow plane flew in front of him and into the structure.

"The fireball was pretty big. It shook my car and the heat came in from my air vents. I was surprised how big the explosion is," said 27-year-old Messner.