updated 4/12/2005 9:41:18 PM ET 2005-04-13T01:41:18

The door to a plane carrying New Zealand’s prime minister blew open mid-flight on Wednesday, forcing the pilot into a sharp descent and emergency landing that left her badly bruised, but otherwise unharmed.

The door became dislodged when the aircraft hit turbulence, Prime Minister Helen Clark said after the flight. Two security officers grabbed the open door and held it in place while the pilot guided the plane down to a nearby airport.

Asked what was going through her mind, Clark it was the question: “Are you going to live or die?”

Clark, 55, said she knew her life was in danger as air rushed into the cabin of the twin-engine Piper Aztec, which was en route to the capital, Wellington, from the tourism town of Rotorua in central North Island.

“When the plane plunges like that, obviously it is quite shocking. And then when you see the door can’t close, you know that it is a serious incident. But I had full confidence in the way the pilot handled the matter.”

Cheers for officers onboard
The officers “were strong enough to hold the door during the landing,” she told National Radio. “We couldn’t shut it.”

Clark was jolted as the plane dived sharply. She said she had bruises to her arm after it smashed into a metal bulkhead.

“I think everyone was a little bit shaken, but the [two police] performed superbly,” Clark said. A press secretary was the only other passenger.

An X-ray of Clark’s arm showed no fracture, her spokesman, Mike Munro, told The Associated press, but “it’s badly bruised.”

Keith Mackenzie, managing director of airplane charter company Mountain Air, said it was investigating the accident, as were officials at the country’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission.

Clark became prime minister in December 1999 and faces a general election before the end of September.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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