Suicide attack marks grim anniversary in Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — When Andrew Joseph Stack slammed his plane into the side of a Northwest Austin building four years ago, it brought back terrible memories of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Stack piloted his single-engine plane straight into a building holding Internal Revenue Service offices on Feb. 18, 2010, killing himself and a worker inside.

Initial fears of a coordinated act of mayhem were unfounded. It turned out to be the act of a lone criminal.

Stack started the morning by posting a suicide note on his website. In it he cited a long-running feud with the IRS.

“They kept showing different pictures and I saw a view of where my dad’s office was…it wasn’t there.”— KEN HUNTER

Hours later he set his North Austin home on fire before driving from his Scofield Farms neighborhood to the Georgetown Airport.

Stack took off in a Piper Dakota about 9:45 a.m. and headed south.

Descending low over U.S. 183, Stack crashed directly into a suite full of offices housing dozens of IRS workers.

“I jumped underneath the desk and then another explosion went off and that’s when we went out the back side door,” Rene Sadlier said just minutes after the crash. Sadler was working on the first floor of the Echelon One building.

Flames and smoke sent hundreds of people running for their lives.

Photo Courtesy: Federal Bureau of Investigation
Widespread damage to the building from the crash and fire can been seen in this aerial photo. (Photo Courtesy: Federal Bureau of Investigation)

“I looked at it and they kept showing different pictures and I saw a view of where my dad’s office was,” said Ken Hunter. “It wasn’t there.”

His father, 68-year-old Vernon Hunter, an IRS manager inside Echelon One, died in the fiery crash.

Ken Hunter had visited his father several times at the building.

“I was shocked, probably…that is all I can say.”

Hunter called his father several times to check on him, never once getting an answer.

His stepmother Valerie made it out safe. All hoped Vernon would too.

“Knowing my dad, I would’ve figured he would’ve been the last person out of that building because that’s the type of person he is,” Ken said.

Thirteen others were injured.

Heroes emerge
As the flames and smoke poured from the building, glass worker Robin De Haven called on his Army training and jumped into action.

“My first thought is, ‘maybe I can help.’ I don’t know if it’s the Army, or the work truck with ladders and stuff. I just quickly got off 360 and went behind the building and followed the smoke.”

The ladder he carried on his truck was desperately needed.

“My first thought is, maybe I can help.’”— ROBIN DE HAVEN

Seeing people trapped on the second floor, the Iraq War veteran climbed the ladder and broke a large section of glass, then escorted five people to safety.

Why did Stack do it?
Friends of Joseph Stack were dumbfounded. They wondered why he lashed out in such a violent and cruel way.

The incident led the IRS to increase security at other facilities around the country.

There were also 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.

The Echelon Building has been rebuilt, but the IRS no longer has offices there.

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