A small single-engine airplane crashed into an office building in Austin, Texas Thursday in what may have been a suicide carried out by a disturbed local resident. The pilot is believed to have died and two people in the building were injured.
The plane struck the side of a seven-story building in northwest Austin where many high-tech companies have offices and operations. The building housed offices for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, but officials said there was no indication that it had been a terrorist attack. Still, the Colorado-based North American Aerospace Defense Command ordered two F-16 fighter planes to be launched from Ellington Field in Houston to patrol the air over the crash site.
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell says city police are coordinating their investigation with state and federal authorities.
"Our law enforcement officers here in the city are working together with all levels of law enforcement to make sure we have a coordinated effort to get all of the details of this situation," said Mayor Leffingwell.
Leffingwell and local police officials have declined to comment on stories that the crash may have been a deliberate act carried out by a local man who posted an angry diatribe against the IRS and other government entities online. Investigators are reportedly focusing on Joseph Stack, a former software engineer who may have also set fire to his house, about eight kilometers north of the crash site, earlier in the morning.
In his online message, Stack fiercely attacked the Internal Revenue Service, which employs about 190 people in the stricken building. He provided some details of a dispute he had with the federal tax collection agency and said that "violence not only is the answer; it is the only answer." He concluded the message by saying, " 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 fire caused by the plane crash destroyed most of the building, although fire fighters arrived quickly on the scene and succeeded in containing the blaze. Debris from the crash and fire was spread out all around the building and on to nearby roadways. Eye witnesses said they saw the plane flying low in a direct line at the building with no apparent maneuver to avoid it. One witness said the plane drew his attention because it was flying fast and low and he could not see its landing gear deployed.
The disaster shut down traffic on one of Austin's busiest highways for a few hours, but officials say the situation is now contained and that there is no danger to people nearby.