Former University of Richmond Swimmer Among Three Aboard Ill-Fated Hot Air Balloon Ride

Searchers found the body of Natalie Lewis on Sunday morning in Virginia, as the third victim of a hot air balloon in Virginia that crashed on Friday. Lewis was a two-time captain of the Richmond women’s swim team.

Flying as part of a preview event for the Mid-Atlantic Balloon festival on Saturday, a balloon took off that held Lewis, Ginny Doyle, and pilot Daniel Kirk. While an NTSB report is expected to be out next week, initial information from Peter Knudson, a spokesperson for that agency, says that the balloon “contacted power lines, caught on fire, and crashed in a wooded area.”

The bodies of Doyle and Kirk were found shortly after the crash, but Lewis remained hidden in the forested area until around 11 A.M. on Sunday morning.

The 24-year old Lewis graduated in 2011 with a degree in Art History and a minor in Elementary Education. She was a team captain in both her junior and senior seasons, and was a 2010 Atlantic 10 Conference Champion as a member of the 400 free relay.

Lewis had been serving as head of women’s basketball operations for Richmond. The other non-pilot passenger on the balloon, Doyle, was the associate  head coach of the women’s basketball team.

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Natalie was an incredible teammate, role model, and friend. She was the most loving person I have ever met, and taught me to love fully and unconditionally. I am so thankful for her and will always treasure the time we spent together. Rest in peace, sweet girl. I love you.


What a horrible tragedy. I didn’t know her well but from the few times I met her, she was a bright light and a wonderful soul. Rest in peace.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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