Woman Killed by Jet Engine Blast at Popular Caribbean Island Tourist Attraction

A plane lands at the Princess Juliana International Airport as beachgoers watch in Philipsburg, St. Maarten, a Dutch Caribbean territory, on Thursday.
JUDY FITZPATRICK / AP

A tourist on the Caribbean island country of St. Maarten was killed Wednesday after a blast from a jet that was taking off nearby knocked her into a retaining wall, police said.

The 57-year-old New Zealander had been standing at a fence that separates Maho Beach and a runway at Princess Juliana International Airport, police said. The area has become a popular, albeit dangerous, tourist attraction for those seeking to feel the powerful winds of an aircraft’s jet-engine revving for takeoff just yards away.

At the time of the incident, the unidentified woman had been hanging onto the fence along with several others, according to a statement from the Police Force of Sint Maarten. As a large plane was taking off, the woman was “blown away by the jet blast and was seriously injured,” police said.

Despite immediate response from police and paramedics, the woman died shortly afterward at St. Maarten Medical Center, police said.

St. Maarten police spokesman Ricardo Henson told the Washington Post that it was the first such fatality, though there have been minor injuries in the past as a result of people trying to stand in the jet blast while clinging to the fence. Police do not have an official number of how many injuries have occurred at Maho Beach, he said.

The police statement acknowledged that watching planes take off and land at the St. Maarten airport is “well known world wide as a major tourist attraction” but notes that doing so is extremely dangerous. Airport and local officials have placed signs along the airport’s chain-link fence, warning them of the dangers of standing there while a plane is taking off, and officers patrol the area during busy hours, police said.

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SOURCE: Philly.com, Amy B Wang