Milton Keynes student "intentionally fell" from an plane to her death, say police
Tributes have been paid to a bright and talented Milton Keynes teenager who plunged thousands of feet to her death from an aeroplane while on a university study trip to Madagascar.
Police in the area say Alana Cutland, 19, forced open the door of the tiny propeller plane shortly after take off and "intentionally fell" the BBC reports.
Her friend Ruth Johnson, the only other passenger on the plane, made desperate efforts to save her, said police chief Sinola Nomenjahary yesterday.
He said: "The Cessna C168 aircraft was taking off from Anjajavy with three people aboard, including Ms 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."
Mr Nomenjahary added: "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 1130 meters above sea level."
Alana was in her second year at Cambridge University, where she was studying Biological Natural Sciences. She was travelling back from the remote area of Anjajavy, where she had been due to spend several weeks on a research internship.
It is understood she was returning earlier than scheduled because she had suffered episodes of mental ill health.
Her parents Alison and Neil Cutland said they were heartbroken at the loss of their "wonderful, beautiful daughter, who lit up every room she walked in to, and made people smile just by being there".
They said: "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," they added.
"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."
A talented dancer, Alana had a thirst for discovering more of the world and had led an action-packed life, said her family.
Senior tutor at Cambridge's Robinson College, Dr David Woodman said the uni was "deeply shocked" at news of her death.
He added: "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."
The tragedy happened earlier this month but tragically Alana's body has not been found. Searches are continuing.