Trainee easyJet pilot died after mosquito bite led to deadly infection

An inquest heard the fate of the 21-year old who sadly died after passing her easyJet theory exams

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A trainee commercial airline pilot died of a brain infection, after she was bitten by a mosquito on her forehead, an inquest heard.

Oriana Pepper, 21 recently excelled in her theory exams on the easyJet programme in Oxford and had travelled to Belgium for her instrument ratings.

While in Antwerp, Ms Pepper sustained a mosquito bite on her forehead, by her right eye, which caused excessive swelling and an infection, the inquest in Ipswich heard.

On July 7, 2021, she visited a hospital's accident and emergency department and was prescribed antibiotics.

Oriana Pepper, a trainee commercial airline pilot died after she was bitten by a mosquito and developed an infection which spread to her brain
Oriana Pepper, a trainee commercial airline pilot died after she was bitten by a mosquito and developed an infection which spread to her brain

Two days later her boyfriend, James Hall, drove her back to the hospital after she collapsed.

She died in hospital three days lated.

Nigel Parsley, Suffolk's senior coroner, concluded by stating Ms Pepper died "as a result of a serious infection cause by an insect bite to the forehead".

Her medical cause of death was stated as septic emboli in the brain, which are obstructions of blood vessels, with an infection by bacteria called staphylococcus aureus, with an insect bite to the forehead also contributing.

Ms Pepper had just passed her theory examination with easyJet before her death
Ms Pepper had just passed her theory examination with easyJet before her death

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 Ms Pepper’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, Mr Pepper 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”.

He added: “She had met someone she loved, she was training to be a commercial pilot and was fulfilling her dreams.”

The boyfriend of Ms Pepper, 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.

Mr Hall said they were "advised she had an infection, likely due to the mosquito bite" and was prescribed oral antibiotics to treat it.

Ms Pepper collapsed and was "delirious and had difficulty talking" on July 9, so Mr Hall swiftly acted, driving her back to the hospital.

The trainee pilot, who had a twin brother Oscar and an older brother Oliver, died with her parents at her bedside.

Her mother said after the inquest that in memory of Ms Pepper, they 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.