Madagascar police say Alana Cutland opened door of aircraft herself

By Kevin Rawlinson

A British student who died after falling from an airplane flying over Madagascar opened the door of the aircraft herself, according to local police.

Alana Cutland, who was described as a “bright, independent young woman”, was on a research trip on the island. Officers there told the BBC and the Sun newspaper she fell shortly after the Cessna C168 on which she was travelling took off.

Cutland, 19, was a student of natural sciences at Cambridge University and was carrying out research in the remote area of Anjajavy on the island nation off Africa’s east coast. Her body has not yet been recovered.

Jafisambatra Ravoavy, a local police colonel, confirmed to the BBC that it was Cutland who opened the door. Another local police chief, Sinola Nomenjahary, told the Sun the incident that led to Cutland’s death took place about 10 minutes after takeoff.

Police said she had been in regular contact with her parents and was making her way home via the island’s main airport. She had been part of a research trip seeking to discover more about a rare species of crab.

Dr David Woodman, of Robinson College, said the institution was “deeply shocked by the news of Alana’s death” and offered his condolences to her family. “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.”

On Wednesday, family members said the second-year student “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 paid tribute saying: “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.

“We are heartbroken at the loss of our wonderful, beautiful daughter, who lit up every room she walked into, and made people smile just by being there.”