Illinois grandparents killed in plane crash en route to Thanksgiving celebration in North Carolina

An Illinois grandma and grandpa were killed in a plane crash Saturday on their way to celebrate Thanksgiving with their son and grandchildren. 

Joseph Kreher, 64, and Patty Kreher, 66, were killed when their plane, a Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche, crashed in North Carolina, just minutes away from the runway at the Smith Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem. 

According to KSDK, the Krehers had departed from the St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia, Illinois, and made a stop in London, Kentucky, before their plane ultimately crashed around 11.15am.   

The grandparents had reportedly been circling the runway before the ‘airplane lost control’ and hit the ground. 

The plane, which crashed just outside the Smith-Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, appeared mangled as officials investigated the crash

Patty Kreher, 66, and Joseph Kreher, 64, were killed in a plane crash Saturday

Patty Kreher, 66, and Joseph Kreher, 64, were killed in a plane crash Saturday

Pete Wentz with the National Transportation Safety Board provided an update on the crash Saturday afternoon and said that the Krehers approached from the west, ready to land on runway 3-3 before they began a circle of the airport. 

‘The pilot communicated saying he needed to circle the airport for a second attempt and during the circling maneuver, the airplane lost control and impacted the ground,’ Wentz said. 

A family member who spoke with WGHP said that the Krehers were flying into town to celebrate Thanksgiving, a trip they had made several times. 

According to the National Association of Flight Instructors, Joseph Kreher is a certified flight instructor.   

Wentz said the investigation into the crash will look into several factors that could have caused the plane to go down. 

‘We’ll be looking into the environment, what the weather was, and what the impact was on that flight,’ Wentz said.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will both be involved in the investigation. 

The Krehers were circling the airport when they went down Saturday afternoon

The Krehers were circling the airport when they went down Saturday afternoon 

NTSB official Pete Wentz said they are looking into several factors, including the weather and the environment, as potential causes for the crash

NTSB official Pete Wentz said they are looking into several factors, including the weather and the environment, as potential causes for the crash

The Krehers were traveling from Illinois to North Carolina to visit their son and grandchildren for Thanksgiving

The Krehers were traveling from Illinois to North Carolina to visit their son and grandchildren for Thanksgiving

The plane's tail appeared to have almost completely snapped off during the crash

The plane’s tail appeared to have almost completely snapped off during the crash

One resident near where the plane crashed described the scene in an interview with the Winston-Salem Journal. 

‘I couldn’t tell that it was a plane,’ said Susan Harrison-Bailey, who said the plane came down in her backyard. 

‘There was a lot of smoke … I could see it was smashed into the trees. It landed straight up and down,’ she said. 

On Monday, the wreckage from the plane was cleared from the scene. 

No other individuals were injured in the incident and it remains unknown what caused the plane to crash. 

This is the flight path taken by the Krehers before they crashed Saturday while flying into North Carolina for the Thanksgiving holiday

This is the flight path taken by the Krehers before they crashed Saturday while flying into North Carolina for the Thanksgiving holiday 

The couple were considered pivotal members of their Freeburg, Illinois, community

The couple were considered pivotal members of their Freeburg, Illinois, community

The cause of the crash remains unclear as of Thanksgiving day

The cause of the crash remains unclear as of Thanksgiving day 

Friends and loved ones immediately began to memorialize the couple, who were known as pivotal members of their Freeburg, Illinois community, made up of less than 5,000. 

‘It’s just going to be hard for everyone that knew Joe and Patty,’ Freeburg Mayor Seth Speiser said in an interview. 

‘I knew Joe and Patty, they had a machine shop off of 159, very well-liked people in the area,’ the mayor continued. 

The Krehers were the owners of General Machine, a heavy equipment shop in Freeburg. 

‘They had an unbelievable business out there,’ Speiser said. ‘I feel sorry for all the families that work there too. Because it was a mom-and-pop shop and now mom and pop are no longer there.’

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