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Pilot survives plane crash after drama

Published: 9:28PM Saturday September 17, 2005 Source: One News/RNZ/TVNZ Interactive

A light plane crashed into the sea off Kohimarama in Auckland on Saturday night after a two-hour drama over Auckland during which the pilot threatened to crash the plane into the Sky Tower.

The single engine aircraft plunged into the water about 50 metres off the beach shortly after 9.30pm.

The pilot, who is now in Auckland hospital with moderate injuries, was rescued by two men.

The pilot is described as a middle aged man with no apparent police history.

He had earlier told police he was going to crash the plane into the Sky Tower.

Police said he made threats but would not say what they were.

The plane, which was owned by a flying school, was stolen from Ardmore Airport in Manukau City earlier in the evening.

The threat to crash the plane saw the Sky Tower emptied of about 500 people.

Staff at the Auckland tourist attraction cleared the main tower and two restaurants immediately after they were alerted to the threat by police.

Sky City says customers were grumpy about having to leave. The tower will stay closed for the rest of Saturday night.

At 328 metres high, the Sky Tower is the one of the tallest structures in the southern hemisphere.

Inspector Jim Wilson says police are confident there was no significant threat to the public or buildings during the incident.

Wilson says comments from people at the scene saying a helicopter had forced the plane into the ocean are not accurate, and he doesn't know why the crash happened.