UR graduation ceremony honors hot-air balloon crash victims

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – This year’s University of Richmond graduation ceremonies honored two members of the women’s basketball coaching staff who were killed in a hot-air balloon accident Friday night in Caroline County.

Ginny Doyle served as associate coach on the women’s basketball team. Natalie Lewis was Director of Basketball operations for the program.

“Our day begins on a somber note,” Reverend Dr. Craig Kocher, the university’s chaplain, said during his invocation, which included a moment of silence for the victims.

“I want to begin with this invocation with a moment of silence remembering the family and friends of Ginny Doyle and Natalie Lewis and all who share our sorrow,” Kocher said.

President Edward Ayers also addressed the sudden deaths during his brief remarks.

For graduates, red ribbons were worn to signify the tragedy while some graduates decorated their caps with the phrase “Spider strong.”

“It was hard,” Wayne Sparrow, a graduate who played on the men’s basketball team, told CBS 6 reporter Joe St. George.

“Coach Doyle – I always saw her around the office, she was so friendly and Natalie, so friendly and helpful. It just shows life is so short you got to cherish it as much as you can,” Sparrow said.

University of Richmond officials said they planned to hold a memorial that will take place on campus later in the week.

Sparrow said he was glad most of the ceremony remained up beat and joyous — the way he believes Lewis and Doyle would have wanted it.

“This is more than just a graduation, it is a ceremony for them,” Sparrow added.

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for continuing coverage of this story. 

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