Three feared dead in balloon crash

DOSWELL, Va. -- A University of Richmond women's basketball assistant coach and team staff member were the passengers aboard a hot air balloon that drifted into a power line, burst into flames and crashed in Virginia.

University administrators said in a news release that associate head coach Ginny Doyle and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis were two of the three people aboard the balloon that crashed Friday night.

Investigators say the remains of two people were found about a mile apart in dense woods. A third body was found Sunday.

Doyle was feared dead, her sister told the Washington Post, but she added that the family had not been notified if her body was one of the two recovered.

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

More than 100 searchers spent Saturday scouring the woods and fields around the crash site for the third victim and any remnants of the balloon. The search was scaled back as darkness approached but was set to resume Sunday.

Donald Kirk said Sunday that his son, Daniel T. Kirk, was at the controls of the balloon when it drifted into a power line, burst into flames and fell into a heavily wooded area about 25 miles north of Richmond.

His company's website said that Kirk had more than 20 years' experience as a hot air balloon pilot. The website says Kirk had a commercial balloon pilot license issued by the Federal Aviation Administration and had flown in ballooning events throughout the country.

Investigators have declined to say whose remains had already been found.

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 a two-time captain of the Spiders' swim team.

A spokeswoman for Lewis' family, Julie Snyder, called Lewis "an amazing person and a strong person, an athlete engaged to be married."

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 and an at-large berth in the 2005 NCAA tournament. She earned all-conference honors twice as a player.

Doyle gained national attention when she set the NCAA Division I record for consecutive made free throws at 66 her senior season (1991-92). The record stood until being broken by Bowling Green's Lauren Prochaska, who made 70 consecutive free throws in the 2010-11 season.

"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 in the news release.

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

Witnesses to the crash described a harrowing sight on the special preview night for the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival, which was set to open Saturday. The festival was canceled. About 740 people attended the preview event.

On the ground, "It was complete silence," eyewitness Nancy Johnson said. "There were people praying. It was horrible."

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