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Feb 18, 2010 12:40 PM by Bea Karnes, News First 5

Small plane crashes into Texas office building

A small plane crashed Thursday into a multistory office building in Austin, causing a fire and sending black smoke billowing from the seven-story structure, officials said. At least two people were injured a third was unaccounted for.

The Associated Press, citing an unidentified source, said the crash didn't appear to be terrorism.

The plane hit the Echelon Building, which is next to a major highway in north Austin.

Fires were burning from the second through fourth floors, KXAN reported. Crews used ladder trucks and hoses to battle the blazes.

Authorities were conducting a roll call to try to account for all the workers who were in the building.

Fire department officials said two people were taken to a hospital. The nature of their injuries wasn't clear. A third person was unaccounted for.

The IRS, CIA and FBI all have offices in the complex where the building is located, though it was not clear if they are in the building that was hit. The FBI said its office was not in the building that was struck.

It was not immediately known where the plane was headed. The nearest airport is Austin Bergstrom International Airport, which is some 15 miles away.

A witness who described himself as a small-aircraft pilot told KXAN-TV that he witnessed the accident from the parking lot of a nearby restaurant.

"It was really low," he said. "He brushed along a parking lot light ... (and) shot right across the road. It was going really fast. ... It sounded like the engine was on full blast. Then it whacked in-between the first and second floor."

Austin-Travis County EMS Assistant Director James Shamard said smoke was visible for at least a mile and that paramedics had set up a triage center at the scene. "We have no idea right now if there are any patients, or how many," he told the Austin American-Statesman.

Tucker Thurman was driving to work when he said he saw a small plane flying very low over the highway. He said he saw it then bank heavily to the right before heading into the building.

"There was a huge fireball. It's right into the building," Thurman told the Statesman.

Another witness told KXAN that the plane buzzed a nearby apartment building before hitting the office building.

"It looked like he had full control, but as soon as he cleared the apartments, he just dropped down. ... It was within feet of the top of the apartment complex," he said.

 

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