A jet blast from a Boeing 737 taking off at Princess
Juliana Airport in St. Maarten killed a tourist from New Zealand on July 12.
The woman, along with members of her family and other
tourists, was clinging to a cyclone fence separating the runway from a narrow
road and Maho Bay Beach. She was blown backwards by the plane's backwash and
hit her head on a cement block, according to the St. Maarten Daily Herald.
Paramedics immediately transported her to St. Maarten
Medical Center, where she died from her head injuries.
Director of tourism Rolando Brison visited the grieving
family at the hospital to offer the island's condolences.
People are warned about the danger of jet blasts at Maho Bay Beach. Photo Credit: Gay Nagle Myers
"While the family recognizes that what they did was
wrong through the clearly visible danger signs that are posted, they regret the
risk they took that turned out in the worst possible way," Brison said.
Airport authorities have posted signs warning the public not
to hang on the fence separating the beach from the airport. Police regularly
patrol the area to steer tourists away from the fence.
The landings and takeoffs of all types and sizes of aircraft
at the airport are well-known as a tourist attraction. Planes must approach by
skimming over the beach, coming in so low that sunbathers can see the
passengers' faces in the airplane windows.
The ability to get so close to the runway makes it a huge
draw for tourists who flock to take photos.
Visitors have been tossed by planes' jet blasts before, but
this is the first fatality.
The runway at Princess Julianna Airport is 7,152 feet long,
less than half the length of many international airports and is flanked by the
public beach at one end and a bank of hills at the other end.