14 JUL 2017:  A New Zealand tourist has been killed by the blast from a jetliner taking off from St. Maarten's beach-side Juliana International Airport. The 57-year-old woman was holding onto the fence when she was blown from her feet before hitting her head on the rocks and suffering fatal injuries. 

Gayleen McEwan and her friends had joined other tourists who ignored safety warnings and were standing just yards from the departing aircraft.  

Police spokesperson Ricardo Henson said the woman was taken to the hospital to be treated for head injuries, but was declared dead. He said hundreds of tourists regularly ignore multiple warning signs to not stand by the fence at the Princess Juliana International Airport, which is less than 200 feet (60 metres) from the beach in the tiny territory.

This Caribbean airport is considered one of the most dangerous places to watch planes. The area has warning signs identifying the dangers of air blasts, but many people cling to the fence to feel the force.

“Many people come just for the thrill of this main attraction, and unfortunately this time someone lost their life,” he said.

Henson said dozens have been injured in recent years by the jet blasts, but this is the first time someone has died.

“It's very dangerous,” he said. “It goes on all day, every day.”

One of McEwan’s travelling companions has told of her sorrow that the group defied warning signs to experience the thrill of feeling the blast of a jet taking off just yards away. 

 

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