911 recordings describe chaos, frantic moments after plane crash into IRS building in Texas

Monday, April 19, 2010

911 calls tell of chaos after plane hit IRS office

AUSTIN, Texas — Callers to 911 emergency officials in February told of seeing and hearing a fiery plane crash at an IRS office building in Austin, Texas and described a chaotic scene afterward with people running all around.

Some callers were frantic and others remarkably calm in the 911 recordings released Monday by the Austin Police Department.

“I’m calling about the explosion … Oh my God!” said one caller to a 911 emergency dispatcher.

Some callers said they worked in nearby buildings or were driving by at the time. It wasn’t clear whether any were calling from inside the burning building.

Joseph Stack III crashed his small plane into an IRS office building Feb. 18. One person besides Stack was killed and more than a dozen were injured. Stack , 53, who left behind a rambling anti-government manifesto on a website, apparently targeted the lower floors of the office building, where nearly 200 IRS employees worked.

Six miles from the office building, Stack apparently set his house on fire that morning before taking off from an airport and slamming into the building on U.S. Highway 183, officials said.

Police also released 911 calls made about the house fire. A neighbor called to report flames ripping through the home, describing black smoke pouring out and windows bursting in the heat of the blaze.

Stack’s wife and daughter arrived while the house was burning, police have said. The neighbor who was on the phone with the dispatcher said the owners of the house had just arrived and what sounded liked a young woman can be heard crying in the background. When asked if she thought anyone was in the house, what sounded like another woman who said she was Stack’s wife replied in a calm voice, “My husband went crazy. We spent the night in a hotel.”

Among the 911 calls about the plane crash are those from people shopping and working at stores across the highway. One is from a distraught pregnant woman who was driving by on her way to a doctor’s appointment when she said she witnessed the crash.

“It sounded like an 18-wheeler slammed into the building,” another caller said. “I just heard it. I looked out my window.”

Another person phoning emergency dispatchers said, “I can just see lots of smoke — there’s people running over there.”

At one point, a Federal Aviation Administration official called the emergency dispatcher to ask about what was going on. “We’re not missing anybody,” said the FAA employee, who told dispatchers he was at an airport tower. He was then transferred to talk with other police officials.

Austin Police Department said they did not know whether any of the 911 calls came from within the targeted building and that there were no other 911 calls about the crash besides those released Monday to The Associated Press and other news organizations.

The AP requested the recordings the day of the crash under the Texas Public Information Act.

Associated Press Writer Jim Vertuno contributed to this report.

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