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Cops: Student's Fall Out of Plane Was Intentional

Pilot, passenger struggled to hold onto Alana Cutland, 19, over Madagascar: cops
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2019 8:25 AM CDT
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A savanna in Isalo National Park, Madagascar.   (Getty Images/HomoCosmicos)

(Newser) – A British student at Cambridge who was studying crabs along the Madagascar shoreline for an internship has plummeted to her death from a plane, and authorities say it looks like it wasn't an accident. The Sun reports Alana Cutland, 19, fell from the Cessna-style light aircraft last week as it cruised nearly 4,000 feet in the air above Anjajavy, an isolated savanna on the island nation off the coast of East Africa. Local police chief Sinola Nomenjahary says the teen undid her seatbelt about 10 minutes after takeoff, unlocked one of the plane's doors, and tried to get out. Nomenjahary says the pilot and other passenger, Ruth Johnson, struggled to keep Cutland on board, with Johnson clutching Cutland's leg for 10 minutes before her "exhausted" grip finally gave way.

Police submitted photos to the paper showing a re-creation of the incident. Authorities, who've conducted interviews and gone through Cutland's personal items and writings, say she had five "paranoia" attacks while on her research trip. "Our daughter Alana was a bright, independent young woman, who was loved and admired by all those that knew her," her family says in a statement, per the Guardian. "Her thirst for discovering more of the world always ensured she made the most of every second of her action-packed young life." The Independent reports her body has not yet been recovered, and officials aren't sure if they'll ever find it: She disappeared over a remote part of savanna that Nomenjahary says is teeming with "carnivorous Fossa felines," a relative of the mongoose native to Madagascar. (Read more fall stories.)

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