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Mom who mysteriously perished on flight from Dominican Republic died of natural causes: Brother

Courtesy Chris Volz

(NEW YORK) — An Indiana mother of two who died after suddenly falling ill on a plane back from the Dominican Republic last month died of natural causes, her brother Chris Volz told ABC News.


Mystery surrounded the circumstances of 41-year-old Stefanie Smith’s death for much of the last two weeks, as her family pleaded with authorities for answers.

A forensic pathologist contacted Smith’s family on Wednesday to tell them Smith died from a carotid artery dissection in her neck, Volz said.

“It was truly a tragic medical event that happened,” Volz said.

The results of the autopsy do not suggest there was any foul play, Volz added.

On Feb. 28, Smith, fell ill while on an American Airlines flight from the Dominican Republic, after spending five days at a resort with her boyfriend and another couple. Smith’s flight diverted to Turks and Caicos, where she was then transported to a hospital and later pronounced dead.

Maria Yannotti, who was vacationing with Smith on the Caribbean island told ABC News last week that Smith appeared to be healthy during the vacation. She took a run every morning before grabbing breakfast at the resort, Yannotti said.

Smith leaves behind two children, an 18-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter. Volz expects her body to be returned to the U.S. sometime next week.

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