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U of Richmond Remembers Lewis, Other Balloon Crash Victims

DOSWELL, Va. (WBEN/AP) — Virginia state police say they have found the body of the third passenger of a hot air balloon that drifted into a power line, burst into flames and fell into a heavily wooded area about 25 miles north of Richmond.

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Rebecca Reeder, Nardin Principal

Matt Barany, Univ. of
Richmond Swim Coach

At the university's graduation Sunday, a moment of silence was held for the victims - director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis and associate head coach Ginny Doyle.  Lewis was a native Buffalonian and a  Nardin Academy graduate..

The Lewis family is very active at Canisius High School, and a service in her honor will be held there Monday.

Julie Snyder, a family friend serving as a spokesman for them,  called Lewis "an amazing persona and a strong persona, an athlete engaged to be married."

The pilot, Daniel T. Kirk, was also killed when the balloon drifted into a power line and burst into flames Friday. He had 20 years of flying experience and was affectionately known as "Capt. Kirk."

 Lewis's family released the following statement.

Statement from the family of Natalie Mattimore Lewis                
May 11, 2014  2:10 p.m. EST

We are stunned and saddened beyond any understanding over what has happened to our beloved Natalie.

We would like to thank everyone, particularly the Virginia State Police who worked tirelessly in the search and recovery process.  They have been thoroughly professional and very comforting to us.

Natalie’s University of Richmond family has surrounded us as well during these difficult days.

The people of Buffalo, New York, Natalie’s hometown, have provided prayers, support and love.  We have felt this from so many miles away over the past two days.

Natalie’s life was full of blessings, reflected by her unwavering and steadfast Catholic faith.  But, in so many ways,  her life was just beginning. She was engaged to marry the love of her life, Michael Dougher, and we now include him as another son in our grieving family.

It has been extremely difficult to deal with this tragedy, but our faith, our family, and our friends all give us strength.  Thank you for continued your prayers.

Patricia and Evan Lewis (Natalie’s parents)
Evan, Jr. and Caroline Lewis (Natalie’s brother and sister)

ABOVE: Natalie Mattimore Lewis, center with her Buffalo-based  family (Siblings Evan Jr. & Caroline L, Parents Evan Sr. & Patrica R)  in a picture released on behalf of the family .
BELOW: With her fiance.


Lewis was a four-year letter-winner in swimming who just completed her second season with the basketball program.

Her job required organization skills as she made travel, hotel and bus arrangements for the team, planned for meals and handled day-to-day basketball business.

In the grind of a season, broadcaster Matt Smith said, she was a shining light.

"Sometimes when you work in sports, coaches can be so high strung and so focused on the next game or what's going on that you feel almost uncomfortable when you go into the office, but her being the first one that you would see, she always had a smile on her face,"

 -- Broadcaster Matt Smith

The balloon was among 13 that lifted off Friday on a preview night for the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival when it drifted into a power line, burst into flames and fell into a heavily wooded area about 25 miles north of Richmond.

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

State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said another pilot interviewed by investigators described how the pilot tried to open vents to release extra-hot air in an attempt to keep the balloon from rising faster.

"Based on witness accounts, he did everything he could to try to save the passengers' lives," Geller said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

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