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Tourist Dies in St. Maarten Due to Jet Blast Injury

July 13, 2017
2 min read
Tourist Dies in St. Maarten Due to Jet Blast Injury
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Update 7/14/17: Initial reports indicated that the departing plane was operated by American Airlines, however it appears that a Caribbean Airlines 737 was the aircraft involved.

A 57-year-old female tourist from New Zealand was severely injured by the blast of a departing airliner Wednesday evening at St. Maarten's Princess Juliana Airport (SXM) around 6:00pm, and later died after being admitted to St. Maarten Medical Center. The incident was first reported Wednesday evening by SXM Talks.

Maho Beach is a mecca for plane spotters, due to its proximity to arrivals and departures on Runway 10, its beautiful scenery and the decent variety of airline traffic. Planes fly very low over the beach when landing on this runway, creating incredible wide-angle photo (and video) opportunities.

On Maho Beach, people also practice the dangerous hobby known as "fence surfing," where people hang on to the perimeter fence of the airport when a plane lines up to depart. As the plane spools up its engines, the powerful and hot thrust blows people over, usually tumbling across the road and onto the beach, along with whatever loose clothing or belongings the people had. The video above is not from Wednesday's incident, but an example of the danger of fence surfing.

Photo by Richie Diesterheft (Flickr / Labeled for commercial use)
Photo by Richie Diesterheft (Flickr / Labeled for commercial use).

Signs along Maho Beach warn tourists of the potential dangers of jet blasts, yet many people ignore the warnings. It may be only a matter of time before local law enforcement is forced to limit access to individuals who have no need to be around the airport. Hopefully this incident will highlight the dangers of fence surfing, and dissuade others from doing so in the future.