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Va. graduation somber after crash

Bodies recovered in balloon tragedy

DOSWELL, Va. — The University of Richmond’s graduation ceremony was tinged with sadness Sunday night, two days after two members of its athletic staff were among three people killed when a hot air balloon hit a power line and crashed in Virginia.

One victim was a constant in women’s basketball at Richmond, a beloved assistant coach who had been on staff for 15 seasons, remaining through two coaching changes. The other was hardly out of college, always cheerful and willing to help, a friend said.

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Associate head coach Ginny Doyle, 44, and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis, 24, were killed Friday in a fiery hot-air balloon crash along with the pilot, Daniel T. Kirk, 65, an Army veteran who had 20 years of flying experience.

Searchers said Sunday they had recovered the bodies of all three victims.

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 heavy woods about 25 miles north of Richmond.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

Doyle joined the Richmond staff in 1999 and rose to associate head coach three years ago.

She set the NCAA women’s record with 66 consecutive free throws during her senior season at Richmond, where she graduated in 1992. The record stood until 2011.

Lewis, also a Richmond graduate, had completed her second year as director of basketball operations for the women’s team, according to a profile on the university’s website. The Buffalo native was a four-year letter winner and two-time captain of the Spiders’ swim team.

Her job required great organization skills as she made travel and hotel arrangements for the team.

Kirk, the balloon pilot from Delaware, was known by fellow pilots as ‘‘Capt. Kirk,’’ the commander in the “Star Trek’’ tele-vision series. He was a retired Army lieutenant colonel.

Steve Hoffmann, who said he taught Kirk to fly and built the balloon he was piloting, called him ‘‘one of the nicest guys in the world’’ and a consummate professional.

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