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Two Richmond women’s basketball staffers die in hot air balloon crash

The University of Richmond confirmed, on May 11, that two women’s basketball staff members were among three people that died when the hot air balloon that they were passengers in drifted into a power line and burst into flames on Friday night in Virginia. The crash occurred near the Meadow Event Park in rural Caroline County, which is 15 miles north of Richmond.

The Spiders associate head coach Ginny Doyle and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis were two of the three people aboard the balloon according to university administrators said in a news release.

Investigators say the remains of two people were found about a mile apart in dense woods, and the search continued for the third body.

Donald Kirk said Sunday that his son, Daniel T. Kirk, was at the controls of the balloon.

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

Authorities said the pilot of the balloon was doing everything he could to save his life and the lives of his two passengers on Friday night in the moments before the balloon exploded.

"`Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help. I'm going to die. Oh my God, I'm going to die," Carrie Hager-Bradley told WWBT. Hager-Bradley said she was on her way home from the grocery store and heard one of the passengers yelling.

The hot-air balloon was one of 13 balloons to take off on Friday, as part of the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival.

Doyle, who graduated from Richmond in 1992 after a standout basketball career, served as an assistant coach for 16 seasons with the Spiders.

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. She as a four-year letter winner and a two-time captain of the Spiders' swim team.