Plane crash pi­lot had grudge with IRS

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A soft­ware en­gi­neer fu­ri­ous with the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice plowed his small plane into an of­fice build­ing hous­ing nearly 200 fed­eral tax em­ploy­ees on Thurs­day, of­fi­cials said, set­ting off a rag­ing fire that sent work­ers flee­ing as thick plumes of black smoke poured into the air.

A U.S. law of­fi­cial iden­ti­fied the pi­lot as Joseph Stack — whose home was set on fire just be­fore the crash — and said in­ves­ti­ga­tors were looking at an anti-gov­ern­ment mes­sage on the Web linked to him. The Web site out­lines prob­lems with the IRS and says vi­o­lence “is the only an­swer.”

Fed­eral law en­force­ment of­fi­cials have said they were in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether the pi­lot, who is pre­sumed to have died in the crash, slammed into the Austin build­ing on pur­pose in an ef­fort to blow up IRS offices. All the of­fi­cials spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was on­go­ing.

“ Vi­o­lence not only is the an­swer, it is the only an­swer,” the long note on Stack’s Web site reads, cit­ing past prob­lems with the tax-col­lect­ing agency.

“I saw it writ­ten once that the def­i­ni­tion of in­san­ity is re­peat­ing the same process over and over and ex­pect­ing the out­come to sud­denly be dif­fer­ent. I am fi­nally ready to stop this in­san­ity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try some­thing dif­fer­ent; take my pound of flesh and sleep well,” the note, dated Thurs­day, reads.

At least one per­son who worked in the build­ing was un­ac­counted for and two peo­ple were hos­pi­tal­ized, said Austin Fire Depart­ment Divi­sion Chief Dawn Clop­ton. She did not have any in­for­ma­tion about the pi­lot. About 190 IRS em­ploy­ees work in the build­ing, and IRS spokesman Richard C. San­ford the agency was try­ing to ac­count for all of its work­ers.

Af­ter the plane crashed into the build­ing, flames shot out, win­dows ex­ploded and work­ers scram­bled to safety. Thick smoke bil­lowed out of the sec­ond and third sto­ries hours later as fire crews bat­tled the blaze.

“ The ceil­ing caved in and win­dows blew in. We got up and ran,” said Peggy Walker, an IRS rev­enue of­fi­cer who was sit­ting at her desk in the build­ing when the plane crashed.

An­drew Ja­cob­son was on the sec­ond floor when he heard a “ big whoomp” and then a sec­ond ex­plo­sion. He also thought a bomb ex­ploded.

“ When I went to look out the win­dow I saw wreck­age, wheels and ev­ery­thing. That’s when I re­al­ized it was a plane,” said Ja­cob­son, whose bloody hands were ban­daged.

Ja­cob­son, also an IRS rev­enue of­fi­cer, said about six peo­ple couldn’t use the stair­well be­cause of smoke and de­bris. He found metal bar to bust a win­dow so the group could crawl out on a con­crete ledge where they were res­cued by fire­fight­ers.

Ear­lier Thurs­day, about five miles (eight kilo­me­tres) from the crash site, Stack’s $232,000 home was en­gulfed in flames. Two law en­force­ment of­fi­cials said Stack had ap­par­ently set fire to his home be­fore the crash.

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