University of Richmond basketball official returns home after balloon crash

BUFFALO, NY (WWBT) - The youngest victim of the Caroline County balloon disaster was laid to rest Saturday, returning home to New York with a celebration of her life.

Natalie Lewis, 24, attended church and school for years at Saint Rose of Lima in Buffalo, where church members wrote on a placard, "Dear Natalie, we love you."

"Natalie, she was a yes girl. She said yes to life, and everything it offered," said Pastor Fr. Joseph Rogliano in an interview Saturday. "And I challenge us to stop saying no so often."

Lewis' loving family and friends streamed into the church, with her father telling a local paper he named Natalie after the Nativity.

"She was so gifted," said Rogliano. "She was energetic. She was talented, as she shared her gifts like so willing. She was just full of love. She walked in the room and there was just love all over the place."

Lewis was a two time captain of The University of Richmond's women swim team. She was an A-10 relay champion, who pivoted to become operations director of the women's basketball program.

"Her parents said something so unique – that they were given her as a gift for 24 years, and that she was an angel on loan, to us. "We're just trying to take that gift and, instead of looking at how she died, looking at she lived instead."

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