A trainee pilot died after she was bitten by a mosquito and developed an infection that spread to her brain, an inquest has heard.
Oriana Pepper from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, ‘loved nothing better than to go flying’ and was well on her way to qualifying as a commercial airline pilot when she died.
The 21-year-old had passed her theory exams on the easyJet programme in Oxford with flying colours and had subsequently gone to Belgium for her instrument ratings.
While in Antwerp she was bitten by a mosquito on her forehead, by her right eye, Wednesday’s hearing in Ipswich was told.
When the bite swelled up and became infected she went to hospital on July 7 2021 and was prescribed some antibiotics.
But two days later she became delirious and collapsed leading her boyfriend, James Hall, to rush her back to the hospital.
Oriana died in hospital three days later on July 12, 2021.
Recording a narrative conclusion, Suffolk’s senior coroner Nigel Parsley said Oriana died ‘as a result of a serious infection caused by an insect bite to the forehead’.
Mr Parsley said: ‘An infection has entered Oriana’s skin following a bite by an insect.
‘It’s then gone into the carotid artery of the neck and led to septic emboli in her brain.’
Addressing Oriana’s parents Tristan and Louisa Pepper, who attended the inquest, the coroner said: ‘I’ve never seen a case like this before.
‘It’s just one of those things that’s just such an unfortunate tragedy for a young lady who clearly had a wonderful career and life ahead of her.’
In a statement read during the inquest, Tristan said his daughter ‘loved nothing better than to go flying with her dad and her brother Oliver, also a trainee commercial pilot’.
He said his daughter described flying as ‘having an office in the sky amongst the clouds’.
‘She had met someone she loved, she was training to be a commercial pilot and was fulfilling her dreams,’ he added.
Oriana’s boyfriend James, who met her in Phoenix, Arizona, where she completed her private and commercial pilot licences, said they were ‘bitten multiple times without any reaction’ after arriving in Antwerp on May 20.
‘We were assured by locals it was normal for the area and time of year,’ he said.
But Oriana had a reaction to a bite, and attended A&E on July 7 after her swelling ‘significantly worsened’.
He said they were ‘advised she had an infection, likely due to the mosquito bite’ and she was prescribed oral antibiotics.
On July 9 she collapsed, ‘was delirious and had difficulty talking’ so James drove her back to A&E.
Oriana, who had a twin brother Oscar and older brother Oliver, died with her parents by her bedside.
Her mum said after the inquest that in memory of Oriana, the family had ‘set up a small scholarship to encourage other women pilots’ to enter the profession, working with the British Women Pilots’ Association.
‘That’s a positive thing from her life,’ she said.