British trainee pilot dead after mosquito bite during Belgium visit

British trainee pilot dead after mosquito bite during Belgium visit
A picture of Oriana during her training. Credit: Remembr.com/orianapepper

A young trainee pilot from Suffolk, England, was stung by a mosquito during a visit to Antwerp, Belgium last July, after which developed an infection. This lead to her death five days later.

Oriana Pepper, a trainee commercial airline pilot, came to Belgium for her instrument ratings – earned through intensive training focused on flying solely by reference to instruments – but was bitten by a mosquito and developed an infection.

She went to the accident and emergency department on 7 July as her right eye, where she had been bitten, appeared swollen and infected. The infection later spread to her brain, according to reports from an inquest cited by BBC News. She was given antibiotics but she was driven back to the hospital two days later after she collapsed.

Three days later, on 12 July 2021, she died in hospital. The medical cause of her death was recorded as septic emboli in the brain, which are blood clots containing bacteria that travel via the bloodstream and can block a blood vessel. The fact that the insect bit her forehead contributed to her death.

'Wonderful career ahead'

Suffolk's senior coroner Nigel Parsley said in a recorded narrative conclusion that he had never seen a case like this before. "This is an unfortunate tragedy for a young lady who clearly had a wonderful career ahead of her," he stated.

Pepper had just passed her theory exams on the EasyJet programme in Oxford with "flying colours."

Following the inquest, the British Women Pilots' Association set up the "BWPA Oriana Pepper Scholarship," to support a person working towards a commercial pilot licence. This will be awarded to an applicant of either the BWPA Flying High Scholarship or the BWPA Flying Start Scholarship.


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