Jet blast kills tourist in St. Maarten

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St. Maarten is known for low-flying aircraft over Maho Bay Beach.
St. Maarten is known for low-flying aircraft over Maho Bay Beach. Photo Credit: Gay Nagle Myers

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.
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.

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