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Hendricks County mother of two mysteriously dies mid-flight headed back from Dominican Republic

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Posted at 7:52 PM, Mar 07, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-13 19:11:51-04

HENDRICKS COUNTY — A mystery surrounds the death of Stefanie Smith, a Hendricks County mother of two.

Smith died while on a flight back from the Dominican Republic on Feb. 28. While experiencing a sudden medical emergency, the plane made an emergency landing in Turks and Caicos.

The Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force released the following statement:

A commercial flight was diverted to the Turks and Caicos this evening after a female passenger fell ill mid-flight.

At 6:12 pm, the Police Control Room received a call from the Air Traffic Control Tower requesting medical assistance for a 41-year-old female, who at the time was receiving Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

The flight was en route from the Dominican Republic to Charlotte, USA.

A medical team, along with police units, were dispatched, and the patient was transported to Cheshire Hall Medical Centre, where she died.

A post-mortem will be conducted to ascertain the cause of death.
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Now, her family is working to get Smith back to Indiana.

The Hendricks County Coroner's Office said it's a lengthy process that first involves Turks and Caicos officials completing an autopsy.

Mortician Joseph Bonner-Bey breaks down the process to get a loved one back into the United States.

"Sometimes it takes two to three weeks to get a body back to the country from another country," Bonner-Bey said. "The first step is getting a death certificate before a body can leave a country for another. The death certification certifies the cause of death."

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He says the next step is to provide a certificate of noncontagious disease.

“This lets the country know the person coming back didn’t die from a disease that’s contagious. That’s normally signed by the health department or a health official,” Bonner-Bey said. "Then, you can get what is known as an out of state permit, or if you're out of the country, it's a foreign transit permit."

Smith's parents told WRTV their son, Chris Volz, is their family spokesperson.

Volz said Smith didn't have any preexisting conditions and was fine leading up to the plane ride.

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He said the family is completely shocked and devastated.

"She was a special person. Her kids loved her a lot. I know she loved them, so it's tough," Volz said.

WRTV is told the family hopes to have a peaceful service for Smith in Hendricks County later this month.

On March 13, a preliminary autopsy report showed Smith died of a carotid artery dissection in her neck. No foul play is suspected.

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

Volz and his family members have learned that Smith had also been grappling with high blood pressure.

The family expects the results of a routine toxicology report to come out sometime in April.