Philly Native Aboard Balloon During Deadly Crash

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Two bodies have been recovered after a fatal balloon crash occurred near Fredericksburg, Va. Friday. The balloon's pilot, Daniel Kirk, is from central Delaware. Virginia "Ginny" Doyle, a Philly-native and Archbishop Ryan alum, was a passenger along with her University of Richmond collegue, Natalie Lewis. (Published Saturday, May 10, 2014)

    A Philadelphia native and one-time star of Archbishop Ryan High School girl's basketball team was aboard a balloon involved in a tragic accident in Virginia Friday.

    Forty-four-year-old Virginia Doyle, University of Richmond's associate head women's basketball coach, graduated from Archbishop Ryan in 1987 -- the same year she was named to the All-Catholic second team.

    "Basketball was the love of her life," said Pat Mathis, who coached Doyle in volleyball for two years before she left the team to focus on hoops. "Ginny was an unbelievably good, quality person."

    Just minutes before a hot air balloon crashed around 8 p.m. Friday in Virginia, Doyle tweeted her excitement.

    Authorities say three people were aboard the balloon during a festival in Meadow Event Park in Caroline County, just south of Fredericksburg, when it struck a live power line and caught fire around 8 p.m. Friday.

    The pilot tried to extinguish the flames and manage the situation, but an explosion occurred and then the balloon and gondola separated, according to witnesses at the scene.

    Searchers are still working to locate the third person. Family members of the pilot, Daniel Kirk of central Delaware, confirmed he was operating the balloon and University of Richmond officials confirmed that Natalie Lewis, director of the school's basketball operations, along with Doyle were also on board. 

    Doyle, who has been named to the Archishop Ryan Ragdolls Hall of Famers, was a model student, embodying the Catholic high school's values.

    "She could have been the poster child for Ryan," Mathis said. "She lived our present slogan of 'belong, believe, become.'"

    Current School President Mike McArdle added: "She exemplified the ideals of Archbishop Ryan High School."

    After Doyle graduated from Ryan, she went on to George Washington University. She spent two years at the school and then transferred to University of Richmond, where she played two years for the Spiders basketball team.

    "Words cannot begin to express our sorrow," said Keith Gill, Richmond's director of athletics. "We are all stunned by the tragic news. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their loved ones."

    As a player, Doyle helped lead the Spiders to the 1991 Colonial Athletic Association Championship and the NCAA tournament.  She set the NCAA Division I record for consecutive free throws made with 66 -- an honor that stood for 18 years.

    Doyle remains the women's basketball program's career leader in free throw percentage.

    She graduated from Richmond in 1992, joining the staff in 1999 after stints as an assistant coach at two other colleges.

    During her 16-year tenure with the coaching staff, Doyle helped the team achieve nine winning seasons, an at-large berth to the 2005 NCAA tournament and a first-ever appearance in the Atlantic 10 Championship in 2009.

    The college has arranged access to counselors for faculty, staff and students.

    Archbishop Ryan plans to remember Doyle during morning prayers Monday.


    Contact Alison Burdo at 610.668.5635, alison.burdo@nbcuni.com or follow @NewsBurd on Twitter.