ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Ill. – The residents of Freeburg and Smithton mourned the loss of a married couple who died Saturday in a plane crash.

The crash happened shortly after 11 a.m. Joseph and Patty Kreher were on their way to visit their son and grandchildren in North Carolina.

According to a federal investigator, the pilot had alerted the control tower at Smith Reynolds Airport that he was having engine trouble.

The plane crashed near a residential area while circling for another attempt to land.

Investigators said the plane took off from St. Louis’ downtown airport, landing in London, Kentucky, before making its way to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Residents said Joseph has a longtime flying experience, and Patti recently posted pictures from their plane on social media.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are handling the investigation into the plane crash.

The couple owned General Machine in Freeburg, Illinois. Employees were given the day off on Monday, and the door was marked “closed until further notice.”

The residents said the couple was married for 43 years and will be missed by many in the Metro East area.