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Sun, Sep 18, 2005

NZ Pilot Threatened To Crash Stolen Plane Into Sky Tower

Election Night Drama Ends With Plunge Into Harbor

A New Zealand man was in serious but stable condition after he stole a Piper Cherokee Friday night and reportedly threatened to ram it into Auckland's tallest building, before instead crashing into the sea just off St. Heliers Beach, according to media reports.

"It arose from a domestic situation," said Auckland police spokeswoman Phillipa White said. "A man with a pilot's license stole a light plane and threatened to crash into the Sky Tower."

The incident occurred on election day in New Zealand, as residents went to the polls for that country's parliamentary election. An initial report said the man had also threatened to fly the plane into the home of National Party leader Don Brash, who has a home on St. Heliers. The report was later retracted, and authorities say the pilot had no political motivations for the act.

Emergency crews responded promptly to the crash, hauling the man off to the hospital while in police custody. The man had been interviewed by police, although no further details were given.

The 1076-foot tall Sky Tower sits atop the Skycity Casino in downtown Auckland, and is one of the tallest structures in the Southern Hemisphere.

The incident did not appear to have any impact on the results of the election, with New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark of the Labour Party expected to win an historic third-successive term in office, after a very close race against opponent Brash.

FMI: www.skycityauckland.co.nz, www.govt.nz

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