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St Maarten jet-blast accident kills tourist

Police on the Caribbean territory of St Maarten have disclosed that an individual has been fatally injured by jet blast at the island's Princess Juliana international airport.

The airport is famed for the spectacle of aircraft crossing a popular beach at low altitude during the approach from the west to runway 10. The beach is located some 200m from the threshold.

But visitors are also known – despite the hazards involved – to line up against the perimeter fence during departures from the same runway, in order to experience the powerful blast from aircraft engines as they spool up.

The police force of St Maarten says, however, that at around 18:00 on 12 July it received emergency calls regarding an incident in this area.

"Several persons were holding on to the airport fence during the take-off of a large jet aircraft," it states. A female tourist from New Zealand was "blown away" by the jet blast, it adds, and subsequently succumbed to serious injuries despite medical treatment.

While acknowledging that the experience of the low-flying aircraft is a "thrill" which draws tourists to the Dutch island, the practice of standing in the path of the jet blast is "extremely dangerous".

It has not identified the flight involved in the accident, nor the aircraft type or its operator.

Signs warning against direct exposure to the jet blast are located in the area and patrols during peak times are intended to warn people of the risk.

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