Buffalo native missing after balloon crash

DOSWELL, VA (AP/WIVB) – One of the people on board Friday’s deadly hot-air balloon crash in Virginia is a Buffalo native and graduate of Nardin Academy.

Natalie Lewis, 24, is the Director of Basketball Operations for the University of Richmond women’s basketball program. She graduated from Nardin Academy then the University of Richmond, where she was a standout swimmer.

Lewis was on board the balloon along with another basketball official and one other person, when it crashed into power lines and caught fire. Officials have found two bodies, but a spokesperson for Lewis’ family says her body has not yet been recovered.

Thirteen hot air balloons were in the sky for the first-ever Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival in Doswell, Virginia. The festival has been cancelled, in the wake of the accident.

Two people were seen either jumping or falling out of the basket shortly after the fire, witnesses said.

Through a family spokeswoman, Lewis’ parents said Saturday evening, “The search continues for our beloved daughter and we remain hopeful and ask for your continued prayers.”

The university identifed the other passenger on the balloon as Ginny Doyle, the team’s associate head coach.

“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 University of Richmond President Edward L. Ayers. “Their leadership and friendship will endure in the lives of so many.”

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

The college will make grief counselors available to faculty, staff and students.

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