A New Zealand woman has been killed by a jet engine blast while watching a plane take off on the Caribbean island of St Maarten.
In a statement, the St Maarten police force said the 57-year-old woman, who has not been named, was “seriously injured” just after 6pm on Wednesday, after clinging to a fence close to the airport, along with several other people, as a plane took off. Police said they patrol the site on a daily basis to warn people to stay away from the “dangerous” area.
It is understood the New Zealand tourist was standing behind a fence near runway 10 when a Boeing 737 took off. The powerful jet blast propelled her backwards, where she hit her head on the concrete, the New Zealand Herald reported. She died a short time later in hospital.
Signs at the airport warn tourists to stay clear of the runway as jet blasts can cause “severe physical harm and/or death”. The airport has been described by plane spotters as both the world’s “best” and “scariest”, with a short runway of just 2,180m (1.4 miles) forcing planes to approach at low altitude.
“The landing and taking-off of all types and size of aircraft at the international airport of St Maarten is well known worldwide as major tourist attraction,” said the police.
“Many tourists come to the island to experience the thrills of the landing of approaching aircraft flying low above their heads and the holding on to the airport fence and standing in the jet blast of large aircraft taking off.
Despite forceful warnings from local authorities, the airport has become a world-famous tourist attraction, with local bars displaying departure and arrival times and hundreds of people often gathering by the airport’s fences to watch.
St Maarten tourist director Rolando Brison told the Herald he had met with the woman’s family and would be reviewing security tapes to better understand what had occurred.
“While they recognised that what they did was wrong, through the clearly visible danger signs, they regret that risk they took turned out in the worst possible way,” Brison said.
“At this time I only wish to express my deepest sympathy to the family and loved ones while we continue to investigate what transpired.”
Source: The Guardian