U.S. News


Hot Air Balloon Was Carrying 2 Richmond Basketball Officials

Family members say the pilot had 30 years of experience flying hot air balloons. The two passengers worked for University of Richmond athletics.
Posted at 8:29 AM, May 11, 2014

Family members and officials at the University of Richmond have named the pilot and two passengers on board a hot air balloon when it caught fire and crashed at a balloon festival Friday night.

WWBT reports the pilot is Daniel Kirk, while the two passengers are University of Richmond Basketball Operations Director Natalie Lewis and Associate Head Women's Basketball Coach Ginny Doyle.

According to the station, authorities have found only the pilot's body and Doyle's body. Authorities are expected to continue searching for Lewis' Sunday.

VIRGINIA STATE POLICE SPOKESWOMAN: "These include Virginia State Police troopers, as well as deputies with the Caroline County Sheriff's Office. We have civil air patrol and several, multiple search and rescue canine teams."

In a news release posted on the University of Richmond's website, the school's athletic director said: "Words cannot begin to express our sorrow. ... We are all stunned by the tragic news."

Before taking off in the hot air balloon Friday, Doyle shared several photos of herself and Lewis on Instagram. In this post, she said: ​

"Getting ready to go up in a hot air balloon today. Tried it at 6:30am but was too foggy. Will go up this evening #anxiety" (Via Instagram /gdoyle33)

As for the pilot, Daniel Kirk's family told NBC he had more than 30 years of experience with hot air balloons. FAA records show he got certified as a balloon pilot in 1996. Kirk's father says his son was "always very cautious" when flying. 

Organizers of the hot air balloon festival have canceled the remainder of this weekend's festivities. Now, WWBT reports those organizers say they might not hold a balloon festival at the park in Doswell, Va. again.