Balloon Crash Looms Over Richmond Commencement

By: AP Email
By: AP Email
Preparations for the University of Richmond

This combination made with photos provided by the University of Richmond shows associate head coach Ginny Doyle, left, and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis. Doyle and Lewis were two of the three people aboard a hot air balloon that drifted into a power line, burst into flames and crashed on Friday, May 9, 2014, in Virginia. Investigators say their remains were found about a mile apart in dense woods. (AP Photo/University of Richmond, Frank Strauss)

DOSWELL, Va. (AP) — Preparations for the University of Richmond's graduation ceremony were tinged with sadness Sunday, just days after two members of its athletic staff were killed when a hot air balloon crashed in Virginia after hitting a power line.

Associate head coach Ginny Doyle and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis were two of the three people aboard the balloon who were killed Friday after the balloon drifted into a power line, burst into flames and fell into a heavily wooded area about 25 miles north of Richmond.

"Words cannot begin to express our sorrow," Keith Gill, the school's athletic director, said in a statement. "We are all stunned by the tragic news. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their loved ones."

Donald Kirk on Sunday said his son, Daniel T. Kirk, was piloting the balloon. The balloon was registered to Daniel at an address in the Dover, Delaware, area. His company's website said he had been a hot air balloon pilot for more than 20 years and had a commercial balloon pilot license issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Two bodies have been found so far. Searchers continued to look for the third body Sunday. Undergraduate commencement at University of Richmond was scheduled for later in the day.

Lewis just completed her second year as director of basketball operations for the women's team, according to a profile on the university's website. The Buffalo, New York, native was a four-year letter winner and two-time captain of the Spiders' swim team.

Lewis was "an amazing person and a strong person, an athlete engaged to be married," according to family spokeswoman Julie Snyder.

Doyle, who graduated from Richmond in 1992 after a standout basketball career, served on the team staff for 16 years after that — including nine winning seasons. She earned all-conference honors twice as a player.

"As alumnae, classmates, and colleagues — and as invaluable and devoted mentors for our student-athletes — Ginny and Natalie have been beloved members of our community," university president Edward L. Ayers said.

The university canceled two weekend baseball games and held a moment of silence at commencement Saturday for its law school


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