A student of Cambridge University died after falling out of a plane while on a study trip in Madagascar – with the authorities fearing her body may never be found after landing in an area filled with carnivorous wild animals.
Alana Cutland, 19, fell from the Cessna-style light aircraft while it was above the east African country, about ten minutes after take-off.
The second-year Biological Natural Sciences student, from Milton Keynes, was thought to be on an internship when she plunged to her death in the wild Savannah.
Alana’s family say they ‘are heartbroken at the loss of their wonderful, beautiful daughter, who lit up every room she walked in to’.
One local report suggested the student had forced open the plane door in front of the horrified pilot and another passenger. It also claimed that Alana and her parents had several intense and agitated discussions on the phone in the days leading up to her death.
Alana was thought to be travelling back from a research trip to the remote area of Anjajavy. She was in the country for a university research trip to complement her studies and one other passenger was in the aircraft with her, along with the pilot.
Alana’s family have asked for privacy following her death. Their statement said: ‘Our daughter Alana was a bright, independent young woman, who was loved and admired by all those that knew her.
‘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.
‘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.
A friend told the Sun: ‘She was amazing, one of the most beautiful and pure girls I’ve ever known – inside and out.
‘Alana had so much going for her. She loved animals and nature and was over the moon to be going to Madagascar to pursue her passion.’
Dr David Woodman, of Robinson College, Cambridge University, said in a statement: ‘Robinson College is deeply shocked by the news of Alana’s death. 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. The college extends its sincerest condolences to Alana’s family at this extremely difficult time.’
The internship is understood to have been undertaken privately and was not a Cambridge University study trip.