18 Julio 2017 09:45
Watching aeroplanes take off is just another tourist attraction for visitors at Maho Beach
This is what can happen when you ignore the 'DANGER' signs.
You might find it difficult to place Sint Maarten on the map, but I bet you’ve seen images like this:
It might seem spectacular, but these three snapshots are an everyday sight on Maho Beach, situated on the Dutch side of the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. There are barely ten metres between the sandy beach and the fence of Princess Juliana International Airport, the start of the runway being just 25 metres from the barrier.
Watching the planes land and take off just metres over your head is a major tourist attraction that draws visitors to Maho; it’s as popular as lying in the sun. But it is a dangerous pastime, especially for those who insist on standing right up next to the fence of the airfield to feel the power of the aircraft’s jet engines rumbling through their bodies.
In this video, after minute 3:00, you’ll see a number of tourists trying out the experience.
The entire perimeter of the airport on the side of Maho beach is covered with highly visible signs warning about the dangers of the engines’ jet streams. The Sint Maarten authorities strongly advise against standing right up next to the fence to feel the blast of air, although it is not actually forbidden.
Until now, this pastime has led to a number of incidents that have caused injury, but last Wednesday it claimed its first fatality.
The victim was a 57-year-old tourist from New Zealand. The unfortunate woman was doing nothing different to several others who were lining the barrier, only her grip was not strong enough, and she was unable to keep hold of the fence.
When the plane - a Caribbean Airlines Boeing 737 - started up its engines, the blast of air sent her flying, her head smashing onto the concrete barrier that marks the beginning of the beach.
The lady was taken straight to hospital, but died of her injuries hours later.
According to The New Zealand Herald, the island’s tourist director, Rolando Brison, personally informed the victim’s family, whose identity has not been revealed. ‘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.’ he said.
The authorities have used the tragic incident to remind tourists that, although it might not seem it, getting up close to the fence to feel the slipstream of the planes is ‘extremely dangerous’.