University of Richmond staff victims in hot air balloon fire - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

University of Richmond staff victims in hot air balloon fire

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(ABC News)- Two staff members of the University of Richmond women's basketball team were on board a hot air balloon that crashed into a power line, setting it ablaze, school officials said today.

According to the school statement, associate head coach Ginny Doyle and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis were in the balloon.

Doyle, 44, was a former Richmond player who had been a member of the coaching staff for 16 seasons.

Lewis graduated from Richmond in 2011 and was in her third year as director of basketball operations.

The school statement release this evening said the university was extending "prayers and thoughts to the families of two members of the women's basketball staff who were aboard a balloon that crashed May 9 in Caroline County, Va."


"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," President Edward L. Ayers said in the statement. "Their leadership and friendship will endure in the lives of so many." The remains of two people who were in the balloon when it caught fire Friday night have been found, but haven't been identified, officials said today. The remains were found in a heavily wooded area, one late Friday and the other mid-morning today. The remains were about 4,500 feet -- less than a mile -- apart.

One person remained missing Saturday evening.

The crash happened during the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival shortly before 8 p.m. Friday at Meadow Event Park in Doswell, Va. The balloon and two others were about to land when one hit a power line, said Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Gellar.

No wreckage has been found as authorities concentrated their search in nearby Bagdad, Va., but a debris field has been located. More than 100 people were involved in the recovery effort today.

Witnesses told Virginia State Police that the pilot tried to regain control of the balloon and that its two passengers jumped or fell out of the gondola, Gellar said. The witnesses recalled hearing an explosion and seeing the gondola separate from the balloon.

Megan Pattie and Derick Childers joined friends at a nearby field to watch the festival when they saw the balloon hit the power line.

"It was pretty horrifying," Pattie said.

"We saw two passengers inside it and it kept going and got higher and higher and there was nothing we could do with them," Childers said.

Amanda Patterson told ABC News that the mood at the event changed instantly after the crash.

"All the balloons were taking off when we got here. It was a great relaxed atmosphere. Everyone was having fun and you could just feel the mood change very quickly very fast right when we saw the EMS people reacting," Paterson said. "There was just like a tidal wave almost once everyone saw what was going on."

Geller said 13 hot air balloons were involved in the event and the other 12 balloons all landed safely.

Virginia State Police, Caroline County Sheriff's Office, Caroline County Fire and Rescue and Henrico County Police are involved in the search. The Federal Aviation Administration was assisting and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.

The Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival has since been cancelled.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of this tragic accident," Meadow Event Park officials said in a statement. "The Meadow Event Park staff is devastated. It's a shocking situation for everyone."




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