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Thursday, July 20, 2017

The "Tragic Death For Thrill Seeker At Sint Maarten Airport" Story

A jet landing at Princess Juliana International Airport.
It was an ordinary day.  Reading "Travel- Talk- Online" (TTOL) and discovered someone had recently died due to a jet blast at Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch side of Sint Maarten/St. Martin.  Carol and I have visited the island for almost twenty years now and have made many visit to the Sunset Bar and Grill which is located near the end of the runway of the airport.  Next to the beach bar is famous Maho Beach which is a prime spot for watching international jets land.  
Photograph of an arriving plane taken from Maho Beach.
You can stand on the beach and photograph the planes as they fly about 100 feet above your head and then land on the runway which begins a narrow driveway away from the beach.  The driveway is so narrow it has a concrete block divider in the middle to make sure vehicles remain on their own side of the road.  
Numerous danger signs tell the warning.
That concrete block divider seems to be what was responsible for the untimely death of Gayleen McEwan, a tourist to the island, from New Zealand.  Seems she died after being blown off the chain-link fence which separates the narrow driveway from the end of the runway.  A departing jet began to power up for takeoff right in front of the fence and the jet blast knocked her off the fence.  It was said on the TTOL website that the jet blast can knock over a bus, so when a plane is ready for takeoff, traffic stops on the road until the plane has departed.  But yet, humans attempt to hold on to the fence and withstand the thrust of the jet blast.  We have seen the results many times when tourists are blown off the fence onto the beach or into the water.  A few years ago a young girl also struck the curb, but survived.  
A large jet dwarfs those on the beach in it's path.
The woman in the news report did not fare as well.  So what should or can be done to prevent this?  There are numerous signs warning you of the consequences, but evidently some people can't read or just plain ignore the signs.  A post on TTOL says that the Sint Maarten Police patrol the area and give warnings to those that don't follow the warning, but Carol and I have never seen Police pass by during any of our visits to the area.  
A young woman loses her grip during takeoff.
There evidently is no law that says it is illegal to put yourself in harm's way.  The planes are a huge tourist attraction with many cruise ships to the island offering trips to the Sunset Bar and Grill to see the planes land and take off.  Placing a solid wall in place of the chain link fence might cause a problem for departing jets with wind thrust bouncing back off the wall towards the departing jet. It is also a fact that exposure to jet fuel, as in a blast at takeoff, can cause physical problems.  
You can see a person being blown into the water in this photo.
Carcinogen naphthalene exposure can lead to skin and lung problems.  So what will be done?  Probably nothing.  This is the first death to ever occur since the airport opened 72 years ago.  And, the day after the accident, thrill-seekers were back at it, holding onto the fence as planes revved their engines for takeoff.  Next week the death will be history; something for everyone to talk about.  But, it will not stop those who travel to Sint Maarten to take their life in their hands and brave the jet blast of the large jets that frequent the airport.  Life will go on; at least for most of the thrill seekers. And then, sometime in the future ... it will happen again.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   

1 comment:

  1. My daughter fliy's as an F/A with Jet Blue and fly's in there routinely but obviously never has this view of the activity.