'Inspiring and brilliant' Suffolk pilot, 21, died from an infected insect sting
- Credit: TRISTAN PEPPER
A Suffolk coroner said he had "never seen a case like this before" after hearing how an "inspiring and brilliant" Bury St Edmunds woman died following an infected insect sting.
Aspiring pilot Oriana Pepper, 21, had travelled to Belgium for further training as she pursued her dream to fly commercial aircraft when a sting above her right eye became infected with the bacteria staphylococcus aureus.
The infection spread into her carotid arteries and brain and she died at a hospital in Antwerp on July 12 last year.
Senior Suffolk coroner Nigel Parsley remarked on the extremely unusual nature of the case during the inquest at Suffolk Coroner's Court on Wednesday.
He said: “I have never seen a case like this before. It is one of those things that is such an unfortunate tragedy for a young lady who clearly had a wonderful life and career ahead of her.”
The hearing heard how Oriana had overcome being born seven weeks prematurely with her twin brother Oscar – and weighing just 2lb 8oz – to excel academically and at sport, especially hockey and swimming.
Her parents Tristan and Louisa Pepper, who attended the hearing, described how she was competitive and never liked to be beaten by her two brothers, including Oliver, 24.
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They said she had dreamed of having an "office in the sky" and had secured a place on airline EasyJet's flight training programme, spending time at a pilot training academy in Oxford.
She had travelled to Arizona in the USA for training and met her boyfriend James Hall.
In a written statement read to the hearing, Mr Hall described how the couple had been bitten multiple times by mosquitoes after arriving in Belgium in May, without any reaction and had spoken to locals who assured them insect bites were "normal" for that time of year.
On July 5, the accomplished pianist reported tenderness in her eyebrow and there was a red mark following a bite, while she also experienced a "dull ache" in her back.
She visited A&E at an Antwerp hospital and was prescribed antibiotics, but in the days that followed her face swelled and she seemed "dazed and tired" before collapsing in the shower.
Medics believed she had an auto-immune disease that was attacking her brain stem and gave her immunotherapy but her condition never improved and she fell into a coma.
Following the inquest, Mr Pepper said: “She was just lovely, she was the perfect daughter. She was born prematurely and had a hard start in life, but she did very well at everything she did.”
Her mother added: “She was an inspiration. Brilliant, lovely.”
A JustGiving page set up in her memory also raised £7,340 to help the special care baby unit at her local hospital, which cared for her and to fund aspiring female pilots.
Mr Parsley recorded a conclusion that Oriana had died from a serious infection caused by an insect bite to the forehead.