A 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?