- A Cambridge University student died after falling out of a plane above Madagascar last Thursday, the police say.
- Alana Cutland, 19, forced the plane’s door open and fell more than 3,500 feet to her death, a local police chief, Sinola Nomenjahary, told The Sun.
- Cutland was eight days into a six-week research trip in the country, The Sun reported.
- Nomenjahary told The Sun that Cutland had had five “paranoia attacks” during the trip.
- Her parents paid tribute to their “bright, independent” daughter.
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A Cambridge University student died after falling more than 3,500 feet from a light aircraft flying over Madagascar last Thursday, police in the country said.
Alana Cutland, 19, from Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, forced her way out of the plane and “intentionally fell” to her death, a local police chief, Sinola Nomenjahary, told Britain’s The Sun newspaper.
UK officials and Cutland’s family confirmed her death.
The plane took off from a remote research base at Anjajavy, in northern Madagascar, with two passengers and the pilot, according to The Sun.
A struggle broke out 10 minutes into the flight when Cutland unlocked the plane’s door in an attempt to get out, Nomenjahary told The Sun.
The other passenger, Ruth Johnson, and the pilot tried to hold Cutland back. But about five minutes later, Cutland freed herself from Johnson’s grip, forced the door open, and fell more than 3,500 feet to the savanna below, Nomenjahary said.
Her body has not been found, The Times said, citing local reports on Wednesday.
Cutland was eight days into what was set to be a six-week, self-funded research internship into a rare species of crab, The Sun reported. She’d had five “paranoia attacks” during the trip, Nomenjahary said.
Cutland was due to start her third year of studying natural sciences at Cambridge in the fall.
“The Cessna C168 aircraft was taking off from Anjajavy with three people aboard, including Ms. Johnson, Alana, and the pilot,” Nomenjahary told The Sun.
“After 10 minutes of flight, Alana undid her seatbelt and unlocked the right door of the plane and tried to get out. Ms. Johnson fought for five minutes trying to hold her, but when she was exhausted and out of breath she let go.
“Alana then intentionally fell from an aircraft at 1,130 meters above sea level. She dropped into a zone which is full of with carnivorous Fossa felines.” Fossas, the largest carnivorous mammals found on Madagascar, can be up to six feet long, according to Wired.
Her parents, Alison and Neil Cutland, both 63, said in a statement released by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office that they were “heartbroken at the loss of our wonderful, beautiful daughter.”
“Our daughter Alana was a bright, independent young woman, who was loved and admired by all those that knew her,” they said. “She was always so kind and supportive to her family and friends, which resulted in her having a very special connection with a wide network of people from all walks of her life, who we know will miss her dearly.
“Alana grasped every opportunity that was offered to her with enthusiasm and a sense of adventure, always seeking to extend her knowledge and experience in the best ways possible. She was particularly excited to be embarking on the next stage of her education, on an internship in Madagascar complementing her studies in Natural Sciences.”
The statement went on: “Alana was also a talented dancer and embraced the more creative side of her talents with joy and commitment. Her thirst for discovering more of the world always ensured she made the most of every second of her action-packed young life.
“We are heartbroken at the loss of our wonderful, beautiful daughter, who lit up every room she walked in to, and made people smile just by being there.”
A representative for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office told INSIDER: “We are in contact with the Madagascan Government, Police, and aviation authorities following reports of a death of a British woman. Our staff are offering support to her family.”
Cutland’s university college has also paid tribute to the young woman.
“The college is deeply shocked by the news of Alana’s death,” David Woodman, a senior tutor at Cambridge’s Robinson College said in a statement reported by The Times.
“In her two years here, she made a huge contribution to many different aspects of life in the college. She will be sorely missed by us all.”