Tourist Killed At Popular Beach In St. Maarten By Airplane Blast

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 8.19.36 AM.pngA tragedy in St. Maarten highlights the perils of assumption of the risk.  In St. Maarten a New Zealand tourist has been killed by the blast from a jetliner taking off next to a popular beach.  People love to go to the beach to feel the blast of engines and see planes land just overhead (like the YouTube image above of another tourist).  The 57-year-old woman tried to cling to a fence — a common practice — but was thrown into a wall with fatal injuries.

Here is one of the signs on the beach:


These cases often raise questions of not only assumption but also whether the government is negligent in allowing people to assemble on the beach given the high risk. It is the ultimate example of the conflict between individual choice and paternalism in risk.

Thousands of tourists have ignored signs and stood less than 200 feet from the airplane by holding on the fence at the Princess Juliana International Airport.

This is an example of the power as this girl is thrown against a wall:

This is a common past time that can have a lethal or injurious results for tourists who underestimate the strength of the planes.


I tend to favor individual choice over paternalism (that libertarian tendency). However, a strong argument can be made that the beach may be too dangerous to leave to the poor judgment of tourists.  With this death, the question is whether the government can risk poor judgments with so many children around.  The problem is that if you put up a fence on the other side of the road, it reduces the ability of people to get out of the way of cars and reduces access to the beach. It could not increase risk from the higher fence.  In other words, you can create a type of risk displacement in creating new barriers or dangers.  Yet, the government clearly does not to close the beach which is a popular destination for tourist and locals alike on the small island.

What do you think?

61 thoughts on “Tourist Killed At Popular Beach In St. Maarten By Airplane Blast”

  1. Add a big sign stating “So far, X people have died by having their grip on the fence ripped open and thrown against the concrete retaining wall. Will we have to update the number to include you?”

    1. David Benson – X days since the last person killed. Like they have at construction sites.

  2. Believe the thrill seekers put themselves in harms way but why doesn’t the property owner install a permanent blast deflector?

  3. The old rule of human nature applies in cases like this: Ignorance can be educated, crazy can be medicated, but there’s no cure for stupid. In the endless search for “thrills” that some seek, following rules, paying attention to warning signs, or just plain applying common sense that a back seat to thrill-seeking, if they are considered at all by some.

    I’m reminded of my trip to the west which included a visit to Mt. Zion National Park. A friend had recommended scaling the point called “Angel’s Landing.” Going up this trail is not recommended for those who have acrophobia. But the Park has created all sorts of security measures to make the climb as safe as possible, including chains, posts, and other things for people to hold onto. Most people use these aids, which are only sensible. However, when I got to the top, I was disturbed to see some people playing around near the edge and others doing handstands close to the edge. All it would take is an unexpected gust of wind, a mistake, or an accidental bumping of bodies, and the memory of the beautiful sights there would be destroyed by the sound of the last screams of humans plunging to their deaths. I thought it best to keep at a safe distance from those individuals, as well as the edge.

    Here’s a video of the Angel’s Landing journey to give you a sense of the vistas:

  4. Well, I own my property. I have a right to my property. I do not have the right to, for instance, blast a flamethrower off my property and burn to death my neighbor standing on their property, or on the public street, even if I have a sign there to watch out for flamethrowers. A kid might not be able to read the sign.

    I believe in individual responsibility and property rights. I don’t believe I have the right to shoot something deadly off my property and have one sign telling people to watch out. Little kids can’t read.

    If the safe distance is 200 feet, then the edge of the runway should be 200 feet from the fence.

    Yes, this is the tourists’ fault if they ignore a sign they can read. Perhaps some tourists will see a bunch of people gripping the fence, and not notice the one sign on the side. Perhaps they don’t realize there are 2 concrete walls they will be blown into, possibly head first. Who the heck wants to breath the exhaust fumes of a jet? It’s not pristine alpine air. Have some common sense.

    Even though it is their fault, the fact remains that a property owner is causing something deadly, the plane exhaust, to leave their property and go out onto a public beach crowded with kids.

    I’m surprised to find myself blaming the property owner, because all of those warning signs about having to use headlights on a bike at night or don’t put a ladder in cow manure drive me bananas. But that’s my position, nonetheless. A property owner does not have the right to project a deadly force outside of the property. If they crossed the fence and got onto private property, then it would be entirely on the tourists.

    1. How does your analysis change if the same party owns both properties, probably true in this case?

      1. It does indeed affect my position. Then the owner is in gross negligence by allowing the public close to a fence where something deadly will project. Again, for the same reason. There are kids on that beach. The sharks, jellyfish, stone fish, and rays that are in the water are a natural danger for which we all take our own responsibility. But this is man made.

        I realize that this is not in the US. I do not know what their laws are, or who owns the beaches in St Maartin. But hurling any deadly force through a fence onto a public beach seems callous in my mind. It is true that my first thought to the injured or dead would be, “You shouldn’t have done that”, but that doesn’t make a public beach fence snugged up in the butt of a jet OK.

        Didn’t that movie Pushing Tin, I think it was, make tumbling in jet exhaust trails famous and cool? Honestly, why don’t people ever realize that what society deems cool is so often the opposite?

  5. We must let people decide which risks are worth the thrills they seek, and in any event cannot protect them from their own stupidity.

  6. Yes it is on the tourist.
    Signs everywhere warning of the dangers. Everyone knows the situation, including that tourist.
    And yes it is fun.

    Only suggestion I would make, is make everything there soft as a padded room, for the idiots who don’t do it right.
    Not as a law, but maybe as a fundraiser.

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