Why Did Cambridge Student Alana Cutland Open A Plane Door And Jump Out?

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Who Is Alana Cutland? New Details On Cambridge Student Who Opened Plane Door And Jumped Out And Why She Did It
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Alana Cutland is the 19-year-old British who fell 1,130 metres (roughly 4,000 feet, though reports on the exact number vary) to her death in the wild savannah from a small Cessna C168 propellor aircraft last Thursday. She was a second-year student in the Biological Natural Studies program at Cambridge University and had opted to do research in the Anjajavy area of Madagascar on a self-funded trip that was not part of her program. What happened exactly? Who is Alana Cutland?

1. Alana Cutland was a vibrant 19-year old British woman and student.

She undertook a self-funded internship trip to research a rare species of crab. She was from Milton Keynes, a large town and main settlement of the Milton Keynes borough in Buckinghamshire, England, about 50 miles northwest of London. Her family and friends describe her independent, incredibly talented, and full of light, with a wanderlust attitude toward life. “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,” her family shared.

2. She was on a trip in the remote area of Anjajavy researching a rare species of crab.

Alana was working on an animal biology project studying crabs on the shoreline of the area. She was staying at the Anjajavy Lodge. The Anjajavy Forest is one of northwest Madagascar’s dry, deciduous forests situated on the Indian Ocean. According to The Sun, she was supposed to be there for six weeks but decided to leave after eight days after speaking with her parents, Alison and Neil Cutland, both 63. “We knew she was getting some sort of plane trip last week to study the seabed on a neighbouring island,” the Cutlands told the news outlet. “But then contact went dead and we started to fear the worst.”

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3. Her family doesn’t think it was suicide.

Lester Riley, Cutland’s uncle, told The Daily Mail that Alana was experiencing hallucinations due to an anti-malaria medication she was taking, so he doesn’t think it was suicide. After reading through her emails, messages, and documents to find some semblance of an explanation, investigators found that Cutland suffered from paranoia attacks while she was on the trip. They also found that she’d been asking for a lot of moral support, suffered at least five of these attacks, and had several “intense and agitated discussions” with her parents on the phone in the days leading up to her death. Her parents encouraged her to interrupt her research to fly out for a bit and convinced researcher Ruth Johnson, 51, to accompany Cutland on the five-seat aircraft because they were worried about Alana.

4. Johnson tried to stop her before she fell out of the plane.

Ruth Johnson, the other passenger on the aircraft, grabbed Cutland’s leg to keep her on board when Cutland unbuckled herself and attempted to open the right door. “Ms. Johnson fought for five minutes trying to hold her, but when she was exhausted and out of breath, she let go,” police told The Sun. “She dropped into a zone which is full of with carnivorous Fossa felines.” Local Madagascar police chief Sinola Nomenjahary said investigators are working with British police after concluding that Cutland had intentionally fallen out of the plane. Unfortunately, authorities say the chances of finding her body are slim due to the remoteness of the Analalava region.

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5. Cutland was widely loved, admired, and appreciated.

Her friends describe her as “beautiful inside and out.” One source said: “The whole thing has been a nightmare for her family and friends back home in the U.K.” Her parents mourned: “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.” Even a former professor of hers at Robinson College, Dr. David Woodman, said of Alana: “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.”

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6. She was a passionate and talented dancer.

Alana’s friends and family say she “embraced the more creative side of her talents with joy and commitment,” which makes it all the more difficult for them to grapple with her death. She was the vice-president of the dance society at Cambridge Univeristy, Cutazz, and involved in the yoga and mindfulness society there as well.

There are tons of resources out there for dealing with loss and grief. Sending love and healing energy toward the entire Cutland family and every one of the people Alana affected in her life.

Leah Scher is an ENFP finishing her degree at Brandeis University. She's an alumna of the Kenyon Review Young Writer's Workshop the Iowa Young Writers' Studio. She's passionate about Judaism, poetry, film, satire, astrology, spirituality, and sexual health.