A Cambridge University student broke open a door of a plane and jumped to her death after overpowering a fellow passenger while mid-air, it is claimed.
Alana Cutland, 19, fell from a Cessna light aircraft as she travelled back from a remote lodge where she was studying crabs as part of her natural science degree.
The tragic incident happened 15 minutes after the plane took off from the remote Analalava region in northern Madagascar on July 25.
Alana is understood to have fought off British tourist Ruth Johnson before plunging 3,600 feet into the Madagascar savanna below, The Sun reported.
The pilot also grappled onto Alana’s leg and manoeuvred the plane from side to side in a desperate bid to prevent her from flinging herself from the tiny aircraft.
Both eventually lost grip of Alana after becoming “exhausted” in the life and death struggle.
Authorities have launched a major operation to locate her whereabouts, but have not yet been able to recover her body.
Police officers investigating her death have recreated events on board the fateful flight after taking statements from Ms Johnson and the pilot.
Local police chief Sinola Nomenjahary 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.
“Ms Johnson fought for five minutes trying to hold her, but when she was exhausted and out of breath she let go.
Investigators have interviewed staff at the lodge where she was staying.
Nomenjahary added that they read through her documents and she may have been suffering from stress or mental health issues related to her studies.
He added that police were working under the assumption that it was an “intentional fall” and said that they are working with British authorities to establish the exact circumstances surrounding her death.
Earlier today, her family paid tribute to the “talented” Cambridge student.
In a statement released by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, they said: “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 complimenting 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.”
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