Trainee easyJet pilot, 21, died from brain infection after insect bite

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Oriana Pepper. (PA)
Oriana Pepper died after she was bitten by a mosquito. (PA)

A trainee easyJet pilot died after she was bitten by a mosquito and developed an infection which spread to her brain, an inquest heard.

Oriana Pepper, 21, from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, had passed her theory exams in Oxford with top marks and had gone to Belgium for her instrument ratings.

While in Antwerp, she was bitten by a mosquito on her forehead, by her right eye, and it appeared swollen and infected, Wednesday’s hearing in Ipswich was told.

Miss Pepper initially attended an accident and emergency department on 7 July last year but was pronounced dead within a week.

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Schiphol, The Netherlands - June 12, 2011: Airbus A319 airplane from the low cost airline Easyjet is taking off from Schiphol airport in The Netherlands.
Miss Pepper had passed her theory exams on the easyJet programme. (Getty)

Suffolk’s senior coroner Nigel Parsley, recording a narrative conclusion, said Miss Pepper died “as a result of a serious infection caused by an insect bite to the forehead”.

He said: “An infection has entered Oriana’s skin following a bite by an insect.

“It’s then gone into the carotid artery of the neck and led to septic emboli in her brain.”

Miss Pepper was prescribed antibiotics when she attended the A&E department.

But she was driven back to the hospital two days later by her boyfriend James Hall when she collapsed.

She died in hospital three days later on 12 July, 2021.

Mr Hall said they were “bitten multiple times without any reaction” after arriving in Antwerp on 20 May.

Her medical cause of death was recorded as septic emboli in the brain, which are obstructions of blood vessels, with an infection by bacteria called staphylococcus aureus and an insect bite to the forehead also contributing.

Addressing Miss Pepper’s parents Tristan and Louisa Pepper, who attended the inquest, the coroner added: “I’ve never seen a case like this before.

“It’s just one of those things that’s just such an unfortunate tragedy for a young lady who clearly had a wonderful career and life ahead of her.”

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In a statement read during the inquest, Mr Pepper said his daughter “loved nothing better than to go flying with her dad and her brother Oliver, also a trainee commercial pilot”.

He said his daughter described flying as “having an office in the sky amongst the clouds”.

He added: “She had met someone she loved, she was training to be a commercial pilot and was fulfilling her dreams.”

Miss Pepper died with her parents by her bedside.

Her mother said after the inquest that in memory of Miss Pepper, they had “set up a small scholarship to encourage other women pilots” to enter the profession, working with the British Women Pilots’ Association.

“That’s a positive thing from her life,” she said.

Miss Pepper had a twin brother Oscar and older brother Oliver.

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