'Stay together, stay unified,' U of R community reacts to balloon deaths

Police on scene of hot-air balloon wreckage site
Ginny Doyle (L) and Natalie Lewis (R) are presumed dead in Friday's hot air balloon crash. (Photo source: Richmond Athletics)
Ginny Doyle (L) and Natalie Lewis (R) are presumed dead in Friday's hot air balloon crash. (Photo source: Richmond Athletics)

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - The University of Richmond community is learning about tragic deaths of three people in the air balloon crash in Caroline County.

Two members of the University of Richmond's women's basketball team staff were among those in a hot air balloon which crashed Friday in Caroline County, according to multiple media reports.

Virginia State Police and the NTSB have not yet named the three people on board the balloon, but a family member of Ginny Doyle told the Washington Post the associate head coach was among those presumed dead. The other victim identified by the newspaper is Natalie Lewis, 24, who served as director of basketball operations. Lewis' parents confirmed to she was in the balloon and remained missing.

It couldn't come at a tougher time because this is graduation weekend where many people should be celebrating.  Instead they are mourning this loss.

Several student athletes say they were told about the deaths of the two women's basketball staff members Saturday morning.

The three victims are presumed dead.  Before their deaths, Coach Doyle's Twitter page showed how excited she was for the day.  On Friday Doyle posted a photo with Lewis in the basket of a hot air balloon.  It's not clear if this is the balloon the women were riding in during that crash.

Then on Saturday just before takeoff, Doyle posted a photo and posted, "Getting ready to go up!"

Now, the beloved team staff members are believed to be dead, along with the pilot of that hot air balloon.

At the U of R campus on Saturday, people were just finding out what happened.

"I feel really bad for what they're going through," says Shawndre Jones, a freshman on the men's basketball team.  His message to the team is simple.  "I just hope they could stay together, stay strong, stay unified, just pray."

The family of Lewis released a statement saying, "The search continues for our beloved daughter and we remain hopeful and ask for your continued prayers."   According to Lewis' Facebook page, she had just gotten engaged several weeks ago.

On Twitter, college coaches across the country also tweeted their condolences.

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