Ginny Doyle (left) and Natalie Lewis (right) are part of the University of Richmond women's basketball program. (Courtesy: www.richmondspiders.com)
DOSWELL, Va. (WRIC) -
Gov. Terry McAuliffe noted that the power line struck by a hot air balloon in Friday's deadly Doswell crash may not have been on the map the pilot had.
"[Virginia State Police] didn't give me anything more than they believe it was flying low and hit a power line that apparently wasn't on the map that the pilot was looking at, or not looking at, but we don't know for sure," McAuliffe said.
On Sunday, Virginia State Police announced that the remains of the third and final victim in Friday night’s deadly hot air balloon accident at the Meadow Event Park had been recovered, concluding the large-scale search efforts of the recovery operation.The remains of the two other victims, the pilot and a female passenger, were located on Saturday.
More than 100 personnel from Virginia State Police, the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office, Caroline County Fire and Rescue, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Civil Air Patrol initiated full-scale search efforts for the third victim’s remains around 6:30 a.m. on May 11. These and additional search-and-rescue teams, including K-9 units, worked on foot near the Caroline Pines subdivision in a targeted grid search that covered a search area approximately 3 miles long and ¼ of a mile wide, according to VSP.
“Virginia State Police and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators are now concentrating on locating the balloon wreckage and evidence collection,” VSP said in a statement on Sunday.
Family members have identified the two female passenger victims as University of Richmond staff members. The pilot of the balloon had 30 years of experience, according to a source.
Photos capture the two university of Richmond Women's basketball staff members in the hot air balloon moments before things took a horrific turn.
Natalie Lewis, who was in her third year as director of operations for the team. Her parents issued a statement Saturday night, before her remains had been located; it read, in part:
"The search continues for our beloved daughter and we remain hopeful and ask for your continued prayers."
The other woman in the balloon was Associate Head Coach Ginny Doyle, according to a family member.
Doyle tweeted a photo of Lewis yesterday afternoon as the pair were getting ready for the balloon ride into the sky. Her next tweet read: "Getting ready to go up."
The University of Richmond also issued a statement about the tragedy:
"The University of Richmond community extends its prayers and thoughts to the families of two members of the women’s basketball staff who were aboard a balloon that crashed May 9 in Caroline County, Va.
Ginny Doyle, associate head women’s basketball coach, and Natalie Lewis, director of basketball operations, were on the balloon that crashed shortly before 8 p.m. Virginia State Police have recovered two of the balloon’s three occupants. Official identification is pending from the Medical Examiner’s Office.
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 President Edward L. Ayers. “Their leadership and friendship will endure in the lives of so many.”
“Words cannot begin to express our sorrow,” said Keith Gill, director of athletics. “We are all stunned by the tragic news. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their loved ones.”"
The pilot of the balloon was Dan Kirk, according to the senior pilot of Virginia Balloons.
Kirk had more than 30 years experience as a pilot, and according to VSP, he jumped into action when the fire began in the balloon.
VSP spokeswoman Corinne Geller stated in a press conference Saturday that according to witnesses, "He was doing his efforts to vent the balloon to help try to bring it down, to keep it from rising so quickly. He was trying to manage the fire get it out as best he could."
Investigators halted the search Saturday night, due to rough terrain.
Geller added: "We will stay here until the third occupant is located and of course as we continue to ... hopefully find the wreckage of the basket and the balloon, too."
Both the FAA and the NTSB are conducting their own investigations into the crash. Meanwhile, thousands across the country are mourning those who were lost.
"Based on the witness accounts," said Geller, "He made every effort to do everything he could in his power to save his passengers lives and his own."