NICEVILLE -- When Fred Teutenberg missed his regular gig playing bass guitar in the church band, the pastor and congregation sensed something was amiss.
Knowing the family had a private plane and that Teutenberg was a pilot, they checked news reports of crashes and quickly figured out the Florida family had been killed coming home from a family reunion in St. Louis.
Teutenberg, his wife, Terresa, and their five children, ages 2 through 10, died in the crash. Teutenberg’s 16-year-old stepdaughter, who lived in Missouri with her father, stayed behind and wasn’t on board.
The family had left the reunion early to make it back for church service Sunday when the right engine of the Cessna C421 failed Saturday night, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Holly Baker said. The aircraft plummeted into dense woods in western Alabama and it took hours to find the wreckage in the remote area.
“Out of 52 Sundays every year, they miss maybe two and we knew something wasn’t right,” said United Methodist Church Executive Pastor Greg McKinnon.
Friends from church in the close-knit Panhandle community of Niceville remembered the couple for their community involvement and their devotion to religion.
Terresa Teutenberg started the Discovery Learning Academy because she saw a need for quality daycare in the community, friends said, and the center quickly grew to more than 150 students. A bouquet of white roses adorned the entrance to the center Monday and staff members had tears in their eyes.
“They loved kids, they loved life and they loved every aspect of what they did,” friend Brice Early said. “For Terresa, the brood she had wasn’t enough so she took on 150 more through the daycare.”
The Teutenbergs also owned a software development company and coached youth soccer, which is where Early met the couple when they moved to the Panhandle about six years ago. He recalled Terresa coaching late into a pregnancy with youngsters in tow.
“The kids, I think of the boys laughing like their dad and the girls looking like their mom,” he said.
Killed in the crash were the Teutenbergs’ daughters Emma, 2, and Ellie, 6, and their sons Peyton, 4, Brendon, 9, and Will, 10.
The couple moved to the Panhandle from St. Louis because they liked the area and thought it was an ideal place to raise a family.
Fred Teutenberg’s father, Fred Teutenberg Sr., of St. Louis, declined comment about the plane crash.
The senior Teutenberg operates Fred’s Cheapo Depot, a discount cigarette and beer store in St. Louis, known for his appear- ances in campy television ads for the store.
FAA records show the plane was built in 1978. It was registered to Ad- vanced Integrated Technology Solutions LLC in Niceville, the Teutenberg’s company.
A coroner in Alabama handling the case told The Northwest Florida Daily News that he had talked to Fred Teutenberg Sr. and the elder Teutenberg had been telling his son to buy a newer plane if he was going to fly with his family.
“He told his dad the plane had two new engines,” said Marengo County, Ala., Coroner Stuart Eatmon told the newspaper.
Andrew Griffin, who was involved in the church band with Teutenberg, said he had planned to sell the plane last month but the deal fell through.
Friends said they did not yet know about memorial plans.
“We haven’t passed 24 hours yet. I’ve spent most my time on the phone with band members who knew him. We are all stunned. It is a great shock,” Griffin said.