A New Zealand woman who was killed when the blast from a powerful jet engine knocked her to the ground has been identified.
Gayleen McEwan was on a beach in St Maarten watching planes taking off from nearby Princess Juliana International Airport, where the start of the runway is just 50 metres away.
The 57-year-old had been holding onto a fence when the force of the jet engines from a departing Boeing 737 threw her backwards, seriously injuring her.
The mother-of-three died later in hospital. The New Zealand Herald reports McEwan fell and hit her head on the concrete pavement.
Citing signs at the airport warning of standing too close to the fence, the newspaper quotes St Maarten tourist director Rolando Brison as stating: “I met with the family of the deceased this evening and while they recognised that what they did was wrong, through the clearly visible danger signs, they regret that risk they took turned out in the worst possible way.”
McEwan’s sister-in-law Janice told New Zealand’s Stuff Magazine: “We’re just devastated, that’s the word that comes to mind. We’re still taking it all in.
“The family is just trying to support one another at this stage, that’s all we can do.”
A statement from Sint Maarten Police said: “The landing and taking off of all types and size of aircraft at the international airport of Sint Maarten is well known world-wide as a major tourist attraction.
“Many tourists come to the island to experience the thrills of the landing of approaching aircrafts flying low above their heads and the holding on to the airport fence and standing in the jet blast of large aircrafts taking off. Doing this is however extremely dangerous.
“The airport authorities and other local authorities have taken all necessary measures such as the placing of signs to warn the general public not to stand in the path of the jet blast of a departing aircraft because of the danger involved.
“Police patrol on a daily basis visit that area during the busy hours to warn persons to stay away from that area during take-off.
“The local authorities are urging the general public and mainly visitors to the island to adhere to the warning signs that are placed at that location to avoid serious injuries which can ultimately lead to the loss of life.”