Updated: Friday, 19 Feb 2010, 3:38 PM CST Published : Thursday, 18 Feb 2010, 10:18 AM CST
KXAN News Staff
AUSTIN (KXAN) - A pilot with a grudge against the IRS crashed his plane into the agency's office building in Austin on Thursday, engulfing the four-story building in flames in an apparent suicide. The act was meant to call attention to what he viewed as the tax agency's failings.
One federal employee is still unaccounted for. KXAN has identified this person as IRS employee Vernon Hunter of Cedar Park. Hunter and his wife both worked at the building as revenue officers.
Austin Fire Department confirmed Thursday at 8:20 p.m. that two bodies had been found inside the building, but could not confirm their identities.
Two others were seriously or critically injured in the attack. Thirteen people were treated for minor injuries. The FBI has set up a 24-hour command post near the scene. They request that anyone with information call 210-650-6199.
The plane hit between the second and third floors, striking a car in the lot before it hit the building. The engine landed on a frontage road near the building.
"Like most Americans, I am shocked by the tragic events that took place in Austin this morning," said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. "This incident is of deep concern to me. We are working with law-enforcement agencies to fully investigate the events that led up to this plane crash."
Stack owned a software company called Embedded Art and posted the rambling, suicidal manifesto on the site Thursday morning - saying he had had problems with the Internal Revenue Service and that violence "is the only answer."
One victim is at University Medical Center Brackenridge, while the other was sent to Brooke Army Medical Center's burn unit in San Antonio with second-degree burns on his back. Acevedo said the situation could have been much worse, but "I can just say that some folks might have seen this aircraft coming and yelled out some warning. I believe there were some heroic actions."
The victim at Brackenridge said he's grateful he's alive and that he wants everyone to know he is OK. He told doctors he just wants to go to church and go home.
When asked if it was a domestic terror act, Acevedo said, "I personally consider this a criminal act by an individual. You can define it any way you want."
Congressman Michael McCaul, ranking member of the Homeland Security Intelligence Subcomittee disgreed: "It sounds like it to me."
Asked if it would affect any Homeland Security policies, McCaul said, "We have to be very careful how we balance that. I think it’s an issue Congress needs to look at not only protecting federal buildings but the American people."
The Georgetown airport, where the plane departed, has been evacuated and shut down due to the investigation.
A bomb squad was at the airport to investigate a "suspicious package" found there; according to reports at 2:30 p.m. Stack's truck had been found earlier in the day in the airport parking lot, one of the first signs that he'd been involved. The investigation cleared later in the afternoon with nothing unusual reported.
According to FAA reports, the plane departed Georgetown airport north of Austin about 9:40 a.m. Stack evidently did not file a flight plan, according to reports. No flight plan was required because it was a VFR (visual flight rules) day, meaning clear weather.
Witnesses at the scene said that the plane did not appear to be having engine trouble and hit the building at full speed.
Said witness Jerry Cullen, a former pilot: "It was a really speedy dive. It (hit) between the first and second floors in Echelon III. A gigantic fireball came out about 50 feet wide, the windows blew out. It was a whoosh, a roar and a boom."
Witness Megan Riley said the plane was flying so low it was near power lines. Riley said: "We kind of thought it was somebody joking around flying too low trying to scare the co-pilot. It was so low that…. It was close enough that you could've seen the guy in it."
The IRS and the CIA all have offices in that office complex, witnesses say. The Internal Revenue Service has 199 employees in the building.
"At this time, we have no reason to believe there is a nexus to criminal or terrorist activity. We are in the process of coordinating with the state officials and other federal partners to gather more information, and at this time we will defer additional questions to local officials and the FAA," said Matt Chandler
of the Department of Homeland Security.
The collision shook the entire building, and the entire front of the structure is charred. Several witnesses reported they first thought it was a bomb.
Emergency crews did a roll call on the scene to account for people in the building.
Four separate fires burning in the building were contained or put out by 3 p.m.
"All FBI personnel are safe. We are helping local PD and Fire determine what happened. Nothing to indicate we were targeted," said Erik Vasys with FBI in San Antonio.
The rampage started around 9 a.m. on Thursday when officials said they believe Stack set fire to his home on Dapplegrey Lane, which tax records indicate was worth about $236,000.
The fire, which happened around 9:15 a.m. in the Scofield Farms neighborhood, destroyed Stack's.
Stack's wife and 12-year-old stepdaughter had moved into a hotel on Wednesday evening after, friends said, Stack went "ballistic" about his IRS problems.
Here's video of that fire from viewer Chuck Watkins:
The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this story.