Should popular St. Maarten jet-watching spot be closed after tourist's death?

Nicole Bush

A deadly accident involving a powerful blast from a jet engine has led to calls for tourists to stay away from a popular beach on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten.

Every day tourists gather just steps away from the Princess Juliana International Airport to see and feel the power of jets landing and taking off, reports CBS News correspondent Anna Werner. 

For the people who line up along that fence, the exhaust from one of those jets can be strong enough to exceed the wind speeds of a category 3 hurricane.

On Wednesday, 57-year-old Gayleen McEwan of New Zealand was killed after being knocked into a concrete wall by the blast from a plane.

Map of Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten. The circle designates the area where tourists watch planes take off.  Google Earth

"This is the first time in the close to 50-year history of the airport that this has ever happened, that someone has ever lost their life. So it is quite alarming to us," said Rolando Brison, director of tourism of St. Maarten. 

In 2012, cellphone video captured another woman gripping onto the fence as the jet blast swept her headfirst into the wall, seriously injuring her.

The runway where airplanes power up their engines is less than 200 feet from the fence where tourists gather on the beach.

"When you're taking off you're right up literally up to that fence," said Ross Aimer, a former pilot who used to fly into St. Maarten. "The jet blast from one of those engines could literally flip a Mack truck over."

Signs are posted warning the public and St. Maarten police say officers regularly patrol the area, but it's also not illegal.

Still, thrill seekers continue to show up.

"It's not the only airport in the world where some people can get that close," Brison said. "But we do have to, as a tourism destination, take the extra step to really educate people."

Authorities are now examining surveillance footage to find out exactly what happened.

They're also discussing new safety measures in hopes of preventing this type of tragedy from ever occurring again.