A small plane crashed into a business tower that houses some federal offices in Austin, Texas on Thursday morning, engulfing the entire front half of the seven-story building in flames.
The plane, a Cherokee 140, hit the Echelon Building around 10 a.m.
Federal officials are reporting to CNN that the plane’s pilot set his own house on fire in Northwest Austin, stole the airplane, and then crashed it into the building.
The fire, which happened around 9:15 a.m. in the Scofield Farms neighborhood, destroyed the home that apparently belonged to Joseph Stack. Stack has not been located. Local officials have not confirmed to KXAN that there’s a connection.
According to FAA reports, the plane departed an airport north of Austin about 9:40 a.m. and was a Cirrus SR 22. The pilot evidently did not file a flight plan, according to reports. No flight plan is required because it is a VFR (visual flight rules) day, meaning clear weather.
There was still no information on the number of people in the plane, or on a tail number.
Two people have been rushed to a nearby hospital with unspecified injuries. There still has been no official word on who the pilot is, or if he or she has been located in the wreckage.
Witnesses at the scene say that a single engine plane that appeared to be a Cherokee 140 did not appear to be having any trouble, but hit the building at an angle. No smoke or any sign of trouble was visible.
Said one witness, a former pilot: “It was a really speedy dive. It (hit) between the first and second floors in Echelon I. A gigantic fireball came out about 50 feet wide, the windows blew out. It was a whoosh, a roar and a boom.”
Emergency crews are on the scene, and two people are still unaccounted for, fire officials say. The IRS and the CIA all have offices in that office complex, witnesses say. The Internal Revenue Service has 199 employees in the building and they are currently being accounted for, IRS officials said.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is “aware” of the crash, federal officials said.
“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.
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