Family pay tribute to Cambridge University student who ‘fought off friend before jumping from plane’ in Madagascar

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Alana Cutland is said to have jumped from a plane after fighting off her friend (PA)

A Cambridge University student who died in Madagascar fought with her friend before jumping from a plane, authorities have claimed.

Alana Cutland, 19, died earlier this month on the island off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean.

Local media reports suggest Ms Cutland, from Milton Keynes, fell from a light aircraft after carrying out research in the remote area of Anjajavy last Thursday.

Authorities released a recreation of what they say was the moment Ms Cutland fell from the plane (Handout)

Authorities on the island say that they now believe Ms Cutland fought with her friend Ruth Johnson before jumping from the plane.

Another theory suggested Ms Cutland may have suffered a severe allergic reaction to anti-malaria drugs.

The 19-year-old is said to have fallen out of a light aircraft, similar to the one pictured (Wikipedia/file photo)

Police are using a helicopter and have mobilised ground teams in the search for Ms Cutland’s body.

Local police chief Sinola Nomenjahary said: “The Cessna C168 aircraft was taking off from Anjajavy with three people aboard, including Ms Johnson, Alana and the pilot.

“After 10 minutes of flight, Alana undid her seatbelt and unlocked the right door of the plane and tried to get out.

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“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 1130 meters above sea level.

“She dropped into a zone which is full of carnivorous Fossa felines.”

Tributes have been paid to the 'adventurous' Ms Cutland (PA)

Family members have paid tribute to the second-year student, saying she "grasped every opportunity that was offered to her with enthusiasm and a sense of adventure" and was in Madagascar to complement her studies in natural sciences.

In a statement released through the Foreign Office, her family said: "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 Cambridge student was on an internship in Madagascar when she died (Google)

"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.”

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.”

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