British student may have fallen from plane after adverse reaction to medication, family says
A British student who deliberately opened the doors of a plane and fell to her death may have done so after suffering from a severe reaction to prescribed drugs, the Guardian reports.
Authorities in Madagascar are investigating the death of Alana Cutland, 19, after she fell from a Cessna C168 on July 25 despite efforts from another passenger and the pilot to keep her inside. At the time, she had been conducting research in Anjajavy, a peninsula off Madagascar's northwestern coast.
Prior to her flight, Cutland had become sick after taking prescription medicine, her uncle, Lester Riley, told Mail Online.
"She had taken ill after being there for a few days, and when she spoke to her mother on the phone two days before the accident, she was mumbling and sounded pretty incoherent," he said.
Police claim that Cutland, who had been studying natural sciences as a second-year student at Cambridge University, had also experienced at least five paranoia attacks and was "stressed" the day of her death. Riley added that his niece had never shown any signs of mental illness prior to last month's incident.
"What happened, the family believe, was a tragic accident, not a suicide, and we are utterly heartbroken," he said. "Alana had everything to live for, nothing to die for, and we don't think for a moment she deliberately took her own life. She was hallucinating, she was unwell, something had made her ill. It must have been a reaction to medication."
Cutland was purportedly on her way to a town where she could be treated at a hospital, when she inexplicably took off her seatbelt 10 minutes into the flight and tried to free herself from Ruth Johnson, the plane's other passenger who supposedly held onto her for five minutes. The plane's pilot, Mahefa Tahina Rantoanina, told the Sun that Cutland had been silent the entire flight, possibly due to a headache.
"I was trying to fly and stop her from falling at the same time," he recalled. "I was absolutely terrified, we all were."
Authorities have yet to find the teenager's body but believe her behaviour may have been triggered by anti-malaria drugs. Cutland's uncle, however, told the Mail that the family believes it may have been something else.
"We think she had suffered a severe reaction to some drugs but not anti-malaria ones because she had taken those on her trip last year to China without any side effects," Riley said.
In a statement through the United Kingdom's Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Cutland's family expressed their sadness over the loss of someone who "grasped every opportunity that was offered to her with enthusiasm and a sense of adventure."
"We are heartbroken at the loss of our wonderful, beautiful daughter, who lit up every room she walk into, and made people smile just by being there," the statement read.