Pilot’s suicide attack on IRS shocked Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A low-flying airplane, and the explosion that followed, shattered the calm as employees started their work day in Northwest Austin four years ago.

Smoke billowed from Echelon Building No. 1, tarnishing the clear blue sky above the building along U.S. 183 between MoPac and Loop 360.

At first, confusion reigned.

The single-engine Piper Dakota piloted by Andrew Joseph Stack had taken off from the Georgetown Airport on Feb. 18, 2010, about 9:45 a.m.

Minutes later, Stack aimed his aircraft at the building and plowed into a suite full of offices housing dozens of Internal Revenue Service workers, at full speed.

Employees at the office conducted tax audits and investigations.

The crash killed Stack and 68-year-old Vernon Hunter, an IRS employee. Thirteen others were injured, two critically.

A few miles away, crews were battling a blaze at Stack’s two-story home in the Scofield Farms neighborhood. A fire he was suspected of setting.

It quickly became clear the crash was a deliberate attack.

Why did Stack do it?
There were signs of domestic trouble at home. Stack’s wife and 12-year-old stepdaughter had checked into a hotel the night before, after the 53-year-old had an angry outburst at home.

The morning of the attack Stack posted a suicide note on his website.

In the letter, he ripped not only the IRS, but President George W. Bush and the Catholic Church.

Witnesses recall the horrifying scene

The aftermath

A week after the crash, engineers determined the building could be saved.

After several months and millions of dollars of repairs, the rebuilt structure reopened. The IRS no longer has offices there.

In the end, federal officials labeled what happened at the building a “criminal act”, not a case of domestic terrorism.

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