A British teenager has died after falling out of a plane in Madagascar.
Alana Cutland, from Milton Keynes, reportedly fell more than 1,100 metres (3,600 feet) to her death while travelling in a light aircraft last week during an internship on the Indian Ocean island.
The 19-year-old’s family paid tribute to the “bright, independent young woman” who had a “thirst for discovering more of the world”.
Local police are investigating whether the Cambridge University student deliberately threw herself to her death from the two-door Cessna aircraft after carrying out research in the remote area of Anjajavy last Thursday.
Her body has not yet been recovered.
Police photographs recreating Ms Cutland’s final moments appear to show the pilot and a second passenger grasping hold of the victim’s leg as she hangs out of the plane, in a desperate effort to keep her onboard.
Ms Cutland reportedly eventually plummeted to her death after a tense struggle to free herself.
Local police chief Sinola Nomenjahary told The Sun: “The Cessna C168 aircraft was taking off from Anjajavy with three people aboard, including (passenger Ruth) 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.
“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 1,130 metres above sea level.
“She dropped into a zone which is full of with carnivorous Fossa felines.”
It was reported Ms Cutland, from Milton Keynes, suffered “paranoia attacks” while on the self-funded but “failed” research trip to the island, off the east coast of Africa.
Police said she was in regular contact with her parents and was making her way home via the island’s main airport.
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 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.”
Ms Cutland was involved in the yoga and mindfulness society at the college, according to its website.
The internship is understood to have been undertaken privately and was not a Cambridge University study trip.
Additional reporting by PA
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