Madagascar Mystery: 19-year-old Cambridge student leaps from plane after ‘failed’ research project on exotic island

A 19-year-old Cambridge University student is presumed dead after she opened the door in a plane flying out of Madagascar and wrestled from the grip of another passenger trying to save her.

BBC reports that Alana Cutland, 19, a second-year natural sciences student at the prestigious university, died on an unspecified day in July when she opened to the door in a light aircraft that had minutes before taken off from a remote airstrip on the island off the coast of Africa.

Cutland had reportedly been planning a six-week, self-funded research trip — described in some reports as an internship — to study a rare species of crab. But according to the Daily Mail, Cutland apparently had some kind of setback, and following several fraught phone calls and email exchanges with her parents, they rented a small plane to take her to an international airport with an itinerary to return to London.

Citing local news sources on the island, the Daily Mail reports that Cutland had been experiencing “stress” and “paranoia” during her brief time in Madagascar. According to the BBC, there is speculation that Cutland suffered a bad reaction to anti-malaria drugs and the possibility is being investigated.

Two others on the plane; the pilot and British tourist Ruth Johnson, witnessed the horrifying leap, The Sun reports. According to the report, Johnson desperately clung to Cutland’s leg after the 19-year-old opened the aircraft door, but Cutland broke free after several minutes.

In a statement addressing her tragic death, Cutland’s family said she “lit up every room she walked in to, and made people smile just by being there.”

“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.”

According to The Sun, local police chief Sinola Nomenjahary said authorities are concerned they will not be able to find Cutland’s body as she jumped into an area that is full of Fossa felines, which are carnivorous.

According to the BBC, authorities in the UK have not confirmed Cutland’s cause of death.

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