UK

Teen’s Body Found After Deadly Fall Out of Plane in Madagascar

By Mimi Nguyen Ly

The body of a British teen who fell out of a plane flying over Madagascar was found on Aug. 6, according to reports. Now police are trying to figure out what prompted her to apparently leap out of the plane.

Cambridge University student Alana Cutland, 19, fell more than 3,700 ft out of a light aircraft over a savannah after having set off from the remote Anjajavy region of Madagascar on July 25.

Police say her body was found by a local tribe, according to The Sun. The search crew consisted of about 400 local residents and 15 police personnel, the Daily Mail reported.

The police chief Spinola Nomenjanahary confirmed that a body had been found north of where Cutland had fallen.

“It was recognized by the hair, shoes, and clothes. Villagers wrapped it in a sheet of plastic and have started carrying it back to the village,” he told The Sun on Aug. 6. “It will be flown by helicopter to the capital tomorrow. The British embassy [has] already been informed.”

Madagascar police say toxicology tests will be conducted on Cutland’s body when it arrives at the Madagascan capital, Antananarivo, to deduce what medications the teen may have been on, including anti-malaria medication, The Sun reported.

Police Colonel D’y La Paix Ralaivaonary told CNN that Cutland’s body is to be moved to a state hospital on Aug. 8.

Madagascar, located southeast of mainland Africa, is known for its unique wildlife. Cutland had planned to stay in Madagascar for six weeks. According to the Daily Mail she was working on a conservation project at Anjajavy Le Lodge resort, researching the population of a crab species.

But she decided to cut her trip short after just eight days and her flight on the small Cessna-style aircraft was the first leg of her journey back home. The Telegraph reported that Cutland’s parents had rented the light plane to take their daughter to Madagascar’s Ivato International Airport, from where she would have flown to Paris and later London.

Local police chief Sinola Nomenjahary told The Sun that Cutland had suffered a paranoia attack five times.

“The victim is a student who has failed on research work and was asking for a lot of moral support,” he said. “She had personally financed her research and had suffered a paranoia attack five times.”

He told The Telegraph: “It appears she was having difficulty with her work and was suffering from anxiety. The witnesses said that Alana had difficulty managing her private life and her research. Her SMS, email, and telephone contact with her parents indicated she was going through a very difficult psychological period.”

According to The Telegraph, Cutland’s parents had become so concerned about her state of mind that they had asked a family friend, British teacher Ruth Johnson, 51, to travel to Madagascar to accompany her home.

But about 5 to 10 minutes into the flight, Cutland unbuckled her seatbelt and opened the plane’s door in an effort to jump out, Gervais Damasy, the chief of the bureau of investigation into aviation accidents, told CNN.

The Sun reported that Johnson, who was traveling with Cutland, had tried to hold on to the teen for several minutes to prevent her from falling out of the plane. The plane’s pilot, Mahefa Tahina Rantoanina, 33, also tried to help hold her inside the plane by trying to pull the door shut.

But Cutland eventually broke free.

Rantoanina said Cutland was completely silent while trying to leave the plane.

“I have no idea why she opened the door but she did. She opened the door and she jumped. The door did not open itself,” he told The Sun.

Police in Madagascar are investigating the possibility that Cutland had experienced a psychotic episode triggered by anti-malaria tablets after having found Lariam in her luggage, The Telegraph reported. Lariam, an anti-malaria medication, has been previously linked to psychotic episodes and cases of attempted suicide according to the news outlet.

Cutland was in her second year studying natural sciences at Robinson College in Cambridge University, the BBC reported.

Her family issued a statement about the incident and described her as a dancer with a “thirst for discovering more of the world.”

“Our daughter Alana was a bright, independent young woman, who was loved and admired by all those that knew her,” they said, according to the BBC. “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.”

“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 added.