Plane crash pilot had grudge with IRS
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.