Tonawanda News — The Town of Tonawanda Titans swim team is hosting a fundraiser for the family of Natalie Lewis, the 24-year-old Buffalo native who died in a hot-air balloon crash on Friday in Virginia.
"She was an important member of our team for a large number of years, and so we wanted to get a table together to collect donations for the family," Titans Head Coach Scott Vanderzell said. "We really don't have a plan yet for what it's going to be for. We don't know the family's wishes yet."
Donations will be accepted at this weekend's meet from Friday to Sunday at the town Aquatic and Fitness Center, located at 1 Pool Plaza. Checks can be made out to TTSC, Lewis family.
Lewis was an elite swimmer for the Titans club and Nardin Academy High School, setting multiple records and winning a scholarship to swim at the University of Richmond. She graduated in 2011 and was hired as director of Women’s Basketball Operations.
"She was a hard worker and had a great attitude," Vanderzell said. "She came to the pool, gave it her all and did it with a smile on her face."
Lewis and Ginny Doyle, associate head coach of the Richmond women’s basketball team, attended the annual Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival in Doswell, about 25 miles north of Richmond, on Friday.
Doyle, Lewis and the hot-air ballon's pilot took off about 8 p.m. along with two other balloons.
“Two of those hot-air balloons safely landed. As the third balloon was making its approach, it did strike a power line and catch fire,” Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corrine Geller said at a news conference. “Witnesses told us they heard two explosions from the hot-air balloon, and at one point, the gondola and the balloon separated, and the balloon took off at a rapid pace.”