Firstly, my deepest condolences to the family of the lady that tragically lost her life last week attempting to “surf the jet blast.” It is hoped that their loss will serve as a reminder to all who have ventured and to those who undoubtedly will venture to participate in this dangerous “sport,” that this can be deadly! Standing on the actual beach sand west of the road according to me will give you the same “rush” and if you get “blown,” you will fall on sand. In a worst case scenario, you may get blown into the Caribbean Sea. So all you Jet Blast Surfers that cannot swim, wear a water life jacket before attempting the jet blast thrill.
I am not a lawyer (obviously) and certainly not an “ambulance chaser,” but for the life of me I cannot understand how anybody else except the adult that engages in the “sport” is responsible for such an accident, taking into consideration all the signs and precautions put in place by the SXM Airport PJIA. Laws should be anchored in our legal framework, but must also be based on common sense, you would think.
Lawyer Kock argues for the removal of concrete blocks that divide the road at the location. This divider was placed on that road back in 2000 when on my request the then Executive Council, of which I was a member at that time, approved a workable and simple plan to prevent selfish airplane/sunset gazers to park on that road, reducing the only access in and out of the busy Beacon Hill community down to a one lane stretch, causing massive traffic jams and creating serious hazards to landing aircraft, as well as for the inhabitants of Beacon Hill in case of a medical emergency, fire or other calamity.
The divider worked and traffic on that piece of road has since then flowed reasonably well, except for when the occasional taxi driver “trolls” the stretch for passengers they hope need to “go back to their cruise ships.” So a divider there is a must. Now, of course I can agree with maybe replacing the concrete divider with say, plastic tubes fitted on rubber bases that cause a division between the two sides of the road, but are flexible to move when something or someone slams into them.
However, knowing how things often work on our beloved island, I guarantee you that such plastic dividing posts will be broken off in less than six months (not all at once), but just like the short white ones on the side of the Route National from the Cole Bay border to St. James, they will disappear, causing the pre-2000 traffic jams in and out of Beacon Hill to resume with greater vigour!
My suggestion for the problem: Let’s consider re-routing all the traffic in and out of Beacon Hill along the south fence of the airport, up past Mary’s Boon Hotel and onto the Airport Road; then extending the east west airport fences (both sides of the airport property) all the way to the beach edge west of the present road leading to the Alegria front gate. Allowing for foot traffic on the entire beach, the Jet Blast Surfers will still be able to hold on to the fence, but this fence will now be on the western side of the present road, and those “blown” will end up on sand or in the sea (hopefully with a life jacket on).
Alternatively, before we consider any other tunnel (with all due respect to our Prime Minister’s plan), let’s find the funds to build the most simple viaduct (á la Montserrat new airport access road) and channel regular vehicular traffic underground, plane/sunset gazers onto the beach on foot and fence off the present Beacon Hill Road with a locked gate on either side (North and South), so emergency vehicles can still get in and out of Beacon Hill if need be.
One thing for sure, the spectacular SXM Airport landings are greatly contributing to our Tourism product and that show should go on, albeit that we have a collective responsibility as Government and Private Sector to do all we can to protect us from us.
Michael J. Ferrier