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Hot Air Balloon Accident

Parents of Missing Woman on Hot Air Balloon Remain 'Hopeful'

One of the three people who were aboard the hot air balloon that caught fire and crashed in Virginia on Friday was a 24-year-old staff member of the women's basketball team at the University of Richmond, her parents said.

Natalie Lewis, director of basketball operations for the university's Spiders program, graduated from the school in 2011. While enrolled, Lewis was a four-year varsity letterwinner and two-time captain of the swim team.

Lewis' body has not been found. Her parents said they remain hopeful as more than 100 searchers comb through the woods and fields for the third victim and the balloon wreckage.

Image: Natalie Mattimore Lewis
Natalie Mattimore Lewis Courtesy Lewis family

"The search continues for our beloved daughter and we remain hopeful and ask for your continued prayers," read a statement from Patricia and Evan Lewis.

The remains of the pilot and the second passenger were recovered in the densely wooded area but have not been identified.

The balloon ascended around 8 p.m. Friday as part of a precursor to the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at Meadow Event Park. But officials say it hit a utility line, which caused it to erupt into flames, shoot into the sky and then explode.

The Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival was canceled, organizers said in a statement.

—Becky Bratu and Elisha Fieldstadt