Coaches, pilot remembered after balloon crash

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Coaches, pilot remembered after balloon crash
This photo provided by Nancy Johnson shows what authorities say is a hot-air balloon that was believed to have caught fire and crashed in Virginia, Friday, May 9, 2014. Virginia State Police received calls of the crash shortly before 8 p.m., police spokeswoman Corinne Geller told a news conference. Geller said a pilot and two passengers were believed to be on board, and that police believe it was the gondola that caught fire. (AP Photo/Nancy Johnson)
National Transportation Safety Board investigator Heidi Moats, answers reporters' questions during a news conference concerning a hot air balloon accident in Doswell, Va., Saturday, May 10, 2014. A second body was recovered Saturday from the crash of the hot air balloon carrying three that drifted into a power line and burst into flames Friday night in front of hundreds of horrified spectators. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
National Transportation Safety Board investigator Heidi Moats answers reporters' questions during a news conference concerning a hot air balloon accident in Doswell, Va., Saturday, May 10, 2014. A second body was recovered Saturday from the crash of the hot air balloon carrying three that drifted into a power line and burst into flames Friday night in front of hundreds of horrified spectators. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Search teams arrives at a command post for the recovery efforts from a hot air balloon accident in Ruther Glen, Va., Saturday, May 10, 2014. The body of one occupant of a hot air balloon that caught fire after striking a power line and crashed Friday has been recovered and police searched Saturday for two others feared dead, Virginia State Police said. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
A search team arrives at a command post for the recovery efforts from a hot air balloon accident in Ruther Glen, Va., Saturday, May 10, 2014. The body of one occupant of a hot air balloon that caught fire after striking a power line and crashed has been recovered and police searched Saturday for two others feared dead, Virginia State Police said. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Virginia State Police spokesperson Corine Geller speaks during a news conference in Doswell, Va., Saturday, May 10, 2014. Geller gave an update on a hot air balloon accident in the area last night. Virginia State Police say one body has been recovered from a hot air balloon that hit a power line, caught fire and crashed. Geller said Saturday searchers are continuing to look for two other occupants of the balloon, which went down Friday night in Doswell. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The two University of Richmond basketball coaches killed in a hot-air balloon crash were a beloved long-time assistant who was part of one of the most revered moments in the program's history, and a woman who was hardly out of college and always cheerful and willing to help.

The pilot, Daniel T. Kirk, was also killed when the balloon drifted into a power line and burst into flames Friday. He had 20 years of flying experience and was affectionately known as "Capt. Kirk."

At the university's graduation Sunday, a moment of silence was held for the coaches - director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis and associate head coach Ginny Doyle.

As a senior for the Spiders, Doyle set an NCAA record - for men or women - by making 66 consecutive free throws, an accomplishment that earned her dubious recognition from CBS college basketball analyst Billy Packer.

Packer, an 81.9 percent free-throw shooter at Wake Forest, scoffed at the record on air and noted that women use a slightly smaller ball, which in his mind made it less impressive.

Hearing that Packer was going to be in Richmond on another matter, the school invited him to come shoot against Doyle, and about 1,200 fans watched the duel at the Robins Center on Feb. 2, 1992.

It was no contest: Doyle, using a men's ball, made 20 of 20, with only two of them touching the rim. Packer, to the delight of the crowd, missed eight of his 20 attempts.

Her record has since been broken, but years later her foul shooting, as well as her love of the game and her players, remained on display, according to Robert Fish, a Richmond alum who also has called women's games on radio.

Doyle, 44, was hired by Bob Foley at Richmond in 1999 and stayed on through a couple of coaching changes.

Lewis was a four-year letter-winner in swimming who just completed her second season with the basketball program. Her job required organization skills as she made travel, hotel and bus arrangements for the team, planned for meals and handled day-to-day basketball business.

In the grind of a season, broadcaster Matt Smith said, she was a shining light, too.

"Sometimes when you work in sports, coaches can be so high strung and so focused on the next game or what's going on that you feel almost uncomfortable when you go into the office, but her being the first one that you would see, she always had a smile on her face," Smith said.

Kirk, of Delaware, was known by fellow pilots as "Capt. Kirk," the hammy commander of the USS Enterprise on the TV series "Star Trek."

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.

"He was not a hot dog, not a risk taker," Hoffmann said. "It's so unbelievable that everyone's in shock."

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 a heavily wooded area about 25 miles north of Richmond.

On the ground, "it was complete silence," spectator Nancy Johnson said. "There were people praying. It was horrible."

State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said another pilot interviewed by investigators described how the pilot tried to open vents to release extra-hot air in an attempt to keep the balloon from rising faster.

"Based on witness accounts, he did everything he could to try to save the passengers' lives," Geller said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

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