by WFAA-TV, KVUE and WIRES
Posted on February 18, 2010 at 2:14 PM
Updated today at 4:21 PM
DALLAS - Georgetown Municipal Airport has been placed on lockdown after the FBI discovered a note from the pilot of the plane that crashed into an Austin office building Thursday.
Officials say they believe Joseph Stack, a software engineer, set fire to his house before taking a small plane and crashing it into the building.
Authorities said the note written by Stack, 53, said he left a bomb in his car at Georgetown Municipal Airport, which is located in Georgetown eight miles north of Round Rock. As the threat is investigated, no planes are flying in or out of the airport.
Officials say Stack was furious with the Internal Revenue Service, which has an office with nearly 200 employees in the building he crashed into. The plane crash set off a raging fire that sent workers fleeing as thick plumes of black smoke poured into the air.
FAA officials said that the aircraft left Georgetown Municipal Airport, north of Austin, at about 9:40 a.m., and that the pilot did not file a flight plan.
Black smoke could be seen coming from the Echelon complex, located at 9400 Research Boulevard near Highway 183 and the south loop 360 interchange.
The $232,000 house Stack allegedly set alight Thursday morning had his wife and daughter inside, but firefighters managed to rescue them.
Federal law enforcement says investigators are looking at an anti-government message on a web site linked to Stack.
The site outlines problems with the IRS and says violence "is the only answer."
The site featured a long note dated Thursday denouncing the government and the IRS in particular. It cited the Austin man's problems with the agency.
It also says: “If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt asking yourself, 'Why did this have to happen?”
A witness told KVUE that it didn't appear the plane, a Piper Cherokee 150, was having any trouble before it crashed.
"[There was a] massive fireball. People inside... said it shook the whole building. The noise there kinda scared me. The fireball hit, windows started blowing out. Insulation flying everywhere. Then, oddly, the venetian blinds, inside office windows, started flying out and then the whole first floor was on fire, then the second floor, then the third floor," the witness said.
"I heard someone yell. I looked up and right by the window on the fourth floor, there was a ball of flames outside the window. I ran into my manager's office and looked out his window and there was a ball of flames. Then we started yelling for people to evacuate... It was fairly calm and orderly," said another witness.
Peggy Walker, an IRS revenue officer who works in the building said she was sitting at her desk when the plane crashed.
"It felt like a bomb blew off. The ceiling caved in and windows blew in. We got up and ran," she said.
Matt Farney, 39, who was in the parking lot of a nearby Home Depot, said he saw a low-flying small plane near some apartments and the office building just before it crashed.
"I figured he was going to buzz the apartments or he was showing off," Farney said. "It was insane. ... It didn't look like he was out of control or anything."
Sitting at her desk in another building about a half-mile from the crash, Michelle Santibanez said she felt vibrations after the crash. She and her co-workers ran to the windows, where they saw a scene that reminded them of the 2001 terrorist attacks, she said.
"It was the same kind of scenario with window panels falling out and desks falling out and paperwork flying," said Santibanez, an accountant.
There were hundreds of walking-wounded people at the scene and at least three people have been taken to hospital. There were reports that one person is still missing.
The windows of the building are blown out and traffic in the area was diverted.
According to California Secretary of State records, Stack had a troubled business history, twice starting software companies in California that ultimately were suspended by the state's Franchise Tax Board.
In 1985, he incorporated Prowess Engineering Inc. in Corona. It was suspended two years later. He started Software Systems Service Corp. in Lincoln in 1995 and that entity was suspended in 2001. Stack listed himself as chief executive officer of both companies.