A woman from New Zealand was thrown to her death after a low flying plane blew her off her feet at a famous Caribbean beach.
The woman joined hundreds of other tourists at Saint Maarten to watch planes taking off at the beachside Juliana International Airport.
The woman, 57, was holding onto the fence when she was blown from her feet before hitting her head on the rocks and suffering serious injuries.
Tourists visiting the scenic beach regularly climb up onto rocks to watch planes come into land, in spite of signs specifically warning against the danger.
The woman is believed to have been with her family when a Boeing 737 took off for Trinidad at about 6pm, tossing her back onto the concrete.
The woman suffered fatal injuries after hitting her head on the concrete and was rushed to Saint Maarten Medical Center, where she died shortly afterwards.
Several police patrols and paramedics had rushed to help the woman.
In a statement, Saint Maarten police warned:
‘The landing and taking off of all types and size of aircrafts at the international airport of Saint Maarten is well known worldwide as major tourist attraction.
‘Many tourists come to the island to experience the thrills of the landing of approaching aircraft’s flying low above their heads and the holding on to the airport fence and standing in the jet blast of large aircraft’s taking off. Doing this is however extremely dangerous.’
It went on: ‘The airport authorities and other local authorities have taken all necessary measures such as the placing of signs to warn the general public not to stand in the path of the jet blast of a departing aircraft because of the danger involved.
‘The local authorities are urging the general public and mainly visitors to the island to adhere to the warning signs that are placed at that location to avoid serious injuries which can ultimately lead to the loss of life.’
Rolando Brison, head of tourism for the island of Saint Maarten, said he had spoken with the family of the woman, the NZ Herald reports.
‘Yes, the family did confirm that [she was a New Zealander] to me,’ Mr Brison said.
‘I met with the family of the deceased this evening and 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.’
‘At this time I only wish to express my deepest sympathy to the family and loved ones while we continue to investigate what transpired just hours ago.’
Aviation expert Peter Clark said it is significantly more dangerous standing behind a plane taking off than one that is landing.
In 2012, a young woman was serious injured after she was blown against a concrete barrier by the blast of an arriving plane at the site.
Police on the Dutch territory make daily visits to the beach, which is popular with plane spotters from around the world, to warn tourists of the dangers.
Police spokesman Ricardo Henson said dozens had been injured in recent years by the jet blasts, but Wednesday’s tragedy was the first death.
He added: ‘Many people come just for the thrill of this main attraction – and unfortunately this time someone lost their life. It’s very dangerous. It goes on all day, every day.’
A YouTube video from 2012 shows several people holding on to the fence as a nearby plane begins its take-off.
The footage then shows a woman being tossed away by the blast and crashing on a concrete ledge several yards behind the fence.
The New Zealand ministry of foreign affairs said last night that it was following up ‘reports that a New Zealand citizen has passed away in Sint Maarten’.