Thanksgiving plane crash kills grandparents moments before they meet grandkids

A couple's Thanksgiving plans ended in tragedy when they were killed in a plane crash on their way to visit family.

Joseph Kreher, 64, and Patty Kreher, 66, from Illinois, were on their way to visit their son and grandchildren in North Carolina when the fatal accident occurred a stone's throw from Smith Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem, where they were due to land.

The Krehers' aircraft, flown by certified flight instructor Joseph, had been circling the runway in preparation for landing, but the plane ultimately lost control and crashed at around 11:15am on Saturday (Nov 19), the Daily Mail reported.

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Pete Wentz, with the National Transportation Safety Board, said: "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."

The couple had departed from St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia, Illinois, and stopped in London, Kentucky, before continuing on its ill-fated journey, news outlet KSDK reported.

A family member said that the couple had made the trip from Illinois to North Carolina several times before via plane and were planning on spending the Thanksgiving period with family after landing.

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Susan Harrison-Bailey, who lives near the site of the plane crash, told the Winston-Salem Journal she saw "a lot of smoke" when the aircraft went down.

"I couldn't tell that it was a plane," she said.

"There was a lot of smoke … I could see it was smashed into the trees. It landed straight up and down."

The Krehers were the only victims in the crash and the cause of the crash remains unknown.

Wentz said an investigation into the crash would be carried out, looking into several issues that may have ultimately caused the tragic incident.

He added: "We'll be looking into the environment, what the weather was, and what the impact was on that flight."

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board will also be involved in the investigation.

Tributes have already poured in for the couple, who were much-loved members of their small community of less than 5000 in Freeburg, Illinois.

"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.

"They had an unbelievable business out there," Speiser added. "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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