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Memorial set for balloon victims

A public memorial service will be held Wednesday for two of the hot air balloon crash victims who were killed in Caroline County on Friday.

The University of Richmond is hosting the service at 10 a.m at Cannon Memorial Chapel in Richmond.

Ginny Doyle and Natalie Lewis, key members of the university’s women’s basketball staff, were attending the inaugural event of the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival at the Meadow Event Park. They were aboard the balloon when it struck a power line, caught fire and later exploded around 8 p.m.

The pilot of the balloon, Daniel “Captain” Kirk of Starship Adventures, also was killed.

After an intense search over a two-day period, the bodies of Doyle, Lewis and Kirk were found within about 1,500 yards of each other, police said.

Doyle, 44, was the associate head basketball coach for the women’s team and had been on the staff for 16 years. Before coaching, she was a standout student basketball player until she graduated in 1992.

Her family released a statement which said, in part, “We are deeply saddened by the tragic events and the loss of Ginny. Words cannot express how we feel or our remorse. Ginny was a daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, niece, athlete, teammate, coach, teacher, colleague, friend and storyteller.

“She was an accomplished coach, dedicated to women’s basketball and her life with the University of Richmond Spiders,” the statement continued. “She touched the lives of many and lived life to the fullest. She will be greatly missed and holds a special place in all our hearts.”

The family also offered condolences, thoughts and prayers to the family of Natalie Lewis, the other University of Richmond staffer killed in the accident. The statement called Lewis “Ginny’s colleague and best friend.”

Lewis, 24, had been working as the school’s director of operations for the women’s basketball team since 2012 and had also been a standout student and champion swimmer.

The Lewis family also released a statement.

“We are saddened by the loss of our Natalie. Natalie was devoted to her faith, her family and her fiancé Michael Dougher. She was our thoughtful, affectionate, beautiful daughter and sister. She was most excited to share her future loving Michael,” the statement said. “Natalie loved people. She was our constant source of happiness and joy. She used genuine words and selfless actions to gently help others be more successful and more fulfilled.”

University chaplain Craig Kocher and director of Catholic Life and campus minister Tom Mullen will preside over the memorial service. No digital or video cameras will be allowed inside the chapel.

Parking is available in the chapel parking lot, W41. School officials noted that the River Road entrance to the campus will be closed.

Flags on campus were lowered to half-staff Monday and will stay that way through Wednesday, officials said. A formal service will be held in the fall.

No memorial service plans for Kirk had been made public as of Monday afternoon.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said Monday that the investigation of the crash and recovery missions were still ongoing. “These are to make final recoveries of those effects and items associated with the balloons and victims,” she said.

The state police, National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are conducting individual investigations. Anyone with photos or video of the balloon crash is asked to submit them by email to the NTSB at

Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419