University of Richmond Pres: Victims' 'leadership, friendship will endure'

Police on scene of hot-air balloon wreckage site

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - The University of Richmond confirmed Saturday night two of its women's basketball staff members were killed in Friday's hot air balloon crash in Caroline County.

The University of Richmond community extended its prayers and thoughts to the families of

Ginny Doyle, associate head women's basketball coach, and Natalie Lewis, director of basketball operations.

"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," said President Edward L. Ayers. "Their leadership and friendship will endure in the lives of so many."

Doyle and Lewis were on the balloon piloted by Daniel Kirk which Virginia State Police believe went down when it struck a power line and caught fire around 7:56 p.m. Friday. The pilot began emergency safety maneuvers to get the fire under control, but witnesses told troopers the gondola and balloon eventually separated. Witnesses also reported hearing what sounded like two explosions.

The balloon was one of three traveling northeast to a designated landing zone. The other two balloons were able to land safely.

"Words cannot begin to express our sorrow," said Keith Gill, director of athletics. "We are all stunned by the tragic news. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their loved ones."

Click here for full coverage of the hot air balloon tragedy:

Virginia State Police and the NTSB have not yet named the three people on board the balloon.

Two bodies have been recovered, so far. The family of Natalie Lewis said the 24-year-old has not been located and remain hopeful. However, State Police have transitioned the operation from rescue to recovery.

Doyle was a two-time all-conference player at Richmond who graduated in 1992. She led the Spiders to the 1991 CAA Championship and NCAA Tournament and is the program's career leader in free throw percentage. She set the NCAA Division I record for consecutive free throws made with 66, a mark that stood for 18 years.

After graduation Doyle joined the  Spiders' staff for 16 years. The Spiders had nine winning seasons, including a trip to the 2006 NCAA tournament and a first-ever appearance in the Atlantic 10 Championship final in 2009, during her 16 years at the university.

Lewis was a championship swimmer and four-year varsity letter winner at Richmond, serving twice as team captain. She was on three Atlantic 10 swimming championship teams, as well as a student government cabinet member and Spider Scholar Athlete when she graduated in 2011. She began her professional career with Spider Athletics in 2012.

The university has arranged access to counselors to assist faculty, staff and students following this tragic accident. 

Copyright 2014 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved