By Cailey Rizzo
August 05, 2019

A 19-year-old British student died last week after forcing the door of a small plane open mid-flight over Madagascar and "intentionally falling out," according to local police. 

Alana Cutland was a student at Cambridge University who was in Madagascar on a research internship for her course in natural sciences. She was supposed to spend six weeks on the African island studying endangered crabs.

After eight days, Cutland’s parents wanted her to come home. “Her SMS, email and telephone contact with her parents indicated she was going through a very difficult psychological period,” local police told The Telegraph

A few minutes after takeoff, Cutland reportedly unbuckled her seatbelt and opened the door of the Cessna light aircraft. Opening the plane door mid-flight as a passenger is extremely dangerous and only physically possible on smaller, unpressurized aircraft.

Wolfgang Kaehler/Getty Images

Reports speculated that the incident could be linked to the anti-malaria tablets Cutland was taking. Doxycycline and Lariam were found in her luggage, according to The Telegraph. Lariam, which is taken to prevent malaria, has been previously linked with mental health issues and several cases of attempted suicide. They have also been known to cause anxiety attacks, paranoia and hallucination. According to an FDA warning, "If the patients experience psychiatric symptoms such as acute anxiety, depression, restlessness or confusion, these may be considered prodromal to a more serious event. In these cases, the drug must be discontinued and an alternative medication should be substituted."

Before traveling to a destination where malaria is a risk, it’s important to consult the CDC’s index — along with your primary doctor — on which medication might best suit your itinerary and medical history.

Local Police Colonel D'y La Paix Ralaivaonary told the BBC he believed Cutland's tragic incident was "not connected with drugs," while her uncle told the Daily Mail the family believes she "suffered severe reaction to some drugs but not anti-malaria ones because she had taken those on her trip last year to China without any side effects."

The plane's pilot and another passenger said they struggled to try to keep Cutland in the plane but were unsuccessful. Her body has not been found due to the area’s “dense vegetation,” according to a local newspaper.

“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,” Cutland’s family said in a statement.

If you or someone you know needs help, is struggling emotionally, or is thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 for free, 24/7 support.

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