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Mom Who Died on Flight from Dominican Republic Experienced ‘Medical Tragedy,’ Brother Says

Authorities said Stefanie Smith was traveling to Charlotte, N.C. from the Dominican Republic on Feb. 28 when she became unwell "mid-flight"

<p>Courtesy of Chris Volz</p> Stefanie Smith and kids

Courtesy of Chris Volz

Stefanie Smith and kids
  • Stefanie Smith died after falling ill on a flight from the Dominican Republic on Feb. 28

  • Her brother tells PEOPLE that while they're waiting on an official determination, early reports indicate that she experienced a "medical tragedy" on the plane

  • "There was really nothing that anyone could do to save her," he says

The woman who died after falling ill on an American Airlines flight from the Dominican Republic last month died after experiencing a "medical tragedy," according to her family.

Stefanie Smith was traveling to Charlotte, N.C. on Feb. 28 when she became unwell "mid-flight," the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force previously said. The 41-year-old mother of 2 was transported to a hospital in Turks and Caicos following an emergency landing and was later pronounced dead.

Chris Volz, Smith’s brother, tells PEOPLE that while they're waiting on an official report, early information indicates that she experienced a "medical tragedy" on the plane and that her preliminary cause of death is a carotid artery dissection.

A carotid dissection is a tear in a carotid artery, which provides blood to the brain, according to Cedars Sinai. They can “occur suddenly” and “with no known cause,” though it is “often caused by a neck injury” or health conditions “that can weaken artery walls."

Speaking with ABC News, Volz said that a forensic pathologist contacted the family with the information on Wednesday. The outlet reported that nothing indicates foul play was involved.

Related: 5 Die, Including Child, After Plane Crashes Near Virginia Airport: 'There Were No Survivors'

"There was nothing anyone could do to save her," her brother tells PEOPLE. "They tried CPR to no avail."

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<p>Courtesy of Chris Volz</p> Stefanie Smith and kids

Courtesy of Chris Volz

Stefanie Smith and kids

Last week, friend Maria Yannotti told ABC News that Smith seemed healthy during the trip, including just prior to her flight.

"She loves going to the gym every day, even while we were in the Dominican," Yannotti said at the time. "She made it a point to get up every morning to go to the gym and run on the beach."

Speaking with PEOPLE, Volz said his sister "was an amazing person" who "went above and beyond to connect with people and make sure that everybody truly knew how much she appreciated them and how much she loved them."

He also said she had "coached cheerleading and softball," did CrossFit and "loved to help people."

<p>Courtesy of Chris Volz</p> Stefanie Smith and brother Chris

Courtesy of Chris Volz

Stefanie Smith and brother Chris

Volz, who tells PEOPLE the family only recently found out that Smith was also dealing with high blood pressure, says that she was on the plane with her boyfriend when tragedy struck.

"All we know is that he woke up, saw her eyes rolled in the back of her head, and then she kind of made a moaning sound," he says. "That’s when she still had a pulse, was breathing a little bit."

Related: 2-Year-Old Girl and Parents Use Parachute to Survive Plane Crash with 'Minor Cuts and Scratches'

<p>Courtesy of Chris Volz</p> Stefanie Smith and kids

Courtesy of Chris Volz

Stefanie Smith and kids

Smith's brother tells PEOPLE they're "still waiting to get her back to the states so we can proceed with the celebration of life."

Smith’s body should be returned sometime next week, Volz told ABC News. She leaves behind an 18-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter.

"She was just a mom that she loved life, and she always looked at the good in people," her brother tells PEOPLE. "She always loved her kids more than anything. She would do anything for her kids, and they knew that."

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Read the original article on People.