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. An F-16 was caught on video in Afghanistan running a stop sign. These sky jocks…..

  2. This airport has always been on my bucket list. Now I fear they will stop it because of this one death.

    They should just remove the two low walls, or put good padding on it like an amusement park would. Let the tourists assume the risks, including death. The highly visible sign is enough warning.

  3. When I visited the Grand Canyon many years ago, the wind was gusty and would push me 3-4 steps at unexpected times. Since I had no control over the wind I stayed clear of the edge. Looking over the edge would have been nice but I really didn’t want to experience it all the way to the bottom or wherever I might have stopped.

    1. That was one of the things I loved about the Grand Canyon. It hadn’t been “lawyered” to death with guard rails and signs. If you wanted to be an idiot and die, you could.

      1. Jim22 – at least 7 to 8 idiots die at the Grand Canyon every year.

  4. In this airport case, the problem seems to be the low concrete wall. When people are blown back by the jet exhaust, they can hit their heads on the concrete if they land wrong. Seems to me that a simple fix would be reconfiguring the wall. Maybe putting up a section of softer material, or reshaping the top of the wall.

    1. Or just wait for the plane to take off. I’m sure the local government would be involved, and it would become a $10,000+ project by the time the wall was repaired. Besides, the concrete is still there, even though the section that is perpendicular to the direction of thrust is removed. The person could still hit the ground with considerable force resulting in death. To make it really safer, a rubberized track-competition surface could be added. It would require analysis, meetings, retaining a legal firm to see if there would be additional liability, contractor quotes, bidding, resubmission, etc.

      Or just wait for the plane to take off.

      1. slohrss29 – I am sure that there are particular landing zones that people hit on regularly and that’s where they could put the rubberized surface.

        1. I saw a photo of a landing, with hundreds of people on the beach. Wow!

  5. Was she really a girl from New Zealand?
    The island spoken of is half dutch and half frog. The dutch side is usually smart. The airline is at fault for allowing the plane to take off there. If this was a train the conductor would blow the horn to move cars and people out of the way. The airline should have workers out there by the fence to run humans off. But the plane should not be hat close. Get a longer airstrip or quite flying. Longer airstrip would be across that road and into the sea. Or going forward the other direction. They probably have a golf course on that end. Dutch. Went in dumb, come out dumb too. Hustlin round the Caribbean in their alligator shoes.

    1. The “airline” is at fault? Huh? Multiple airlines fly into this airport daily – this is the runway setup. What in the world is the airline expected to do, they are complying with the directives of the airport itself?

    2. The island is”half dutch and half frog”? What does that mean? “the dutch side is usually smart” I would well imagine that the Dutch are smarter than frogs!

  6. This also happens at air shows. Never stand behind a B-1 bomber during takeoff. You get blown away & cooked by the afterburners. This is also the biggest bomber to do 360 rolls. And it does in the video.

    1. Wow! Didn’t know if could do a 360 roll! It’s an amazing piece of technology, just didn’t think about the bird issue enough I guess. Don’t know why you would ever consider standing anywhere near one of these…

  7. LaGuardia Airport in NY has a runway that sits at a right angle to the Grand Central Parkway. it has blast barriers that direct the jet wash up and away from the road. Without them, cars would be flying all over the place.

    Back when God was in knickers, wasn’t there a case of a boy who climbed over a fence at a railroad bridge and was seriously injured diving into the river? Even though there were signs posted, the decision was that the railroad didn’t do enough to prevent the accident.

  8. There was a movie about standing under landing planes, called “Pushing Tin.” It was made in 1999 and starred John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton. They were, of all things, air traffic controllers in NY. It seemed stupid to me when I saw the movie, and it still does. However, I’m kind of with Professor Turley. People have a right to act stupid as long as they are only risking their own life.

    1. That was an awesome movie–it showed the extreme personality type it takes to do that job. The scene where they stood in the jet wash was the wrap-up highlight. I like Cusack’s fringe-personality studies.

    1. Wow, thanks for that! In the South yet!

      It’s an injustice–I cut my lip on a beer can once. Yet, I see them produced by the millions, where’s the justice for me???

  9. IMO the beach is not too dangerous, it’s the cement sidewalk that someone extended between the fence and the sand that is dangerous. And, it certainly seems sidewalk was installed after the advent of jet planes, so I would argue that whomever installed that sidewalk created an unsafe condition. I may be wrong, but it seems that no one would be hurt by being blown into the sand or water by a jet blast. Anyway, I’m available to travel to the island and investigate this further! Lol!

    1. I would rather have the option to walk out of the sand, and wait the 15 seconds for the plane to take off. I spread no blame.

      I like to cross the street, and generally wait for cars to pass. We have crosswalks, but I am suspicious of those and check out the traffic for myself before I enter one.

    2. I would add that I would also be willing to go to the sunny island for up close investigation. You know the devil is in the details. Could take a good week to uncover those details.

  10. One of my favorite sayings goes something like this:
    “There is nothing wrong with finding extreme pleasure as long as you’re careful about what thrills you”.
    Not very careful these folks.
    Maybe they watched too many episodes of Jackass.

  11. Just part of the Natural Selection process in the annual Darwin Awards.

    I’m told the Jackass movie series will explain everything.

  12. Professor Turley – your article mistakenly places this incident in New Zealand. The island of St. Maarten is in the Caribbean. Minor typo but just for clarification you may want to edit that.

    1. TrademarkDude – JT has a place on the home page to send corrections. He rarely reads comments as far as I can tell.

  13. Number One lawsuits from NZ to St. Maartens are not quite a epidemic proportions. Two the place is heavily signed in mutli languages. Three it’s a common sport for the young kids because the jet blast tosses them through the air out into the water. For a heavier adult it’ snot recommended as an extreme sport. Some of us delivered boats for the yacht rental agencies one year and checked this place out. My guess is hanging on rather than getting water tossed changed the parameters. But being outside the fence there is nothing between the water but sandy beach.

    Half the island is Dutch and half French and the French side offers a different sport at least for those of the proper gender. Bikini’s are sold off the arm on the beach and the sellers will model the different designs …imply the rest you won’t be wrong.

    Barring changes since I was last there. it was enough to change our flight to two days later.

  14. I think it is assumption of risk. He is no longer part of the gene pool, thank the gods. As for the Grand Canyon, I think it needs an elevator to the bottom. The whole mule thing is so 20th Century.

    1. Dutch lawyer in a foreign country. It’s nothing like People’s Courts.

    2. Issac,If you’re dead why would you need an attorney?
      To prove unequivocally that you were in fact stupid?

  15. Let’s see who the first attorney is that wants to sue someone for something on behalf of moronic stunts.

  16. Hmmm. Do we need to fence off the Grand Canyon to keep people from falling in? I guess we could, depending on who you ask. OR if statistics show the plane thrust is more lethal to a particular group, then they could put a racist/ethnicist label on it and have demonstrations.

    1. That particular group is an age difference. The young kids do it for sport but they are light enough to be tossed into the air and out in the water. Been going on since they invented jet engines for commercial flights.

      1. It looks like fun, but we live in an age of no personal responsibility. If you die, it’s always someone else’s fault, with the possibility of leveraging public opinion and creating cash flow.

    2. There is a set of waterfalls in the Catalina Mountains near Tucson. They have knee-high barriers at the top of the cliffs with prominent signs warning that there are high cliffs and not to cross the barrier or you may fall off of the cliffs and die. People were still falling off of the cliffs and dying, so the Forest Service installed a 10′ chain link fence, powder coated no less which makes the chain part thicker and the fence harder to see through, with razor wire at the top. No one is falling off the cliffs and dying, because no one goes to the site any more, because you can no longer see the waterfalls from the top of the cliffs.

      So, yes, we probably need a fence at the Grand Canyon that people will have to look through to see the Canyon, which will dramatically reduce crowding at the National Park. Better yet, a high board fence, blocking the view completely, and we can save the expense of operating the Park altogether.

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