BUFFALO, NY - Natalie Lewis is remembered as a young woman with so much promise. She was killed in a hot-air balloon accident in Richmond, Virginia over the weekend.
The 2007 Nardin Academy graduate was full of adventure. It doesn't surprise the principal of her alma mater that she would go for a ride in a hot-air balloon. " She was willing to try so many different things. She just wanted to be involved," said Rebecca Reeder, principal.
Monday morning a mass in memory of Natalie was held at Nardin and Canisius High School where her brother and fiance graduated from a few years ago.
Father Fred Betti, SJ. is the Canisius campus minister who saw at least 50-people attend the 7:45 a.m. mass.
All this week, the mass at Nardin will be in memory of Natalie. A graduate remembered fondly by the staff. "She just enjoyed all the things that she did. Everyone thought highly of her, she was welcoming to everybody," said Reeder.
A man who coached Natalie for many years at the Town of Tonawanda Titans Swim club called her "an elite level swimmer."
A spokesperson for the family of Natalie Lewis, 24, a Buffalo native who died in a hot-air balloon accident in Virginia Friday, issued the following statement on Sunday afternoon:
We are stunned and saddened beyond any understanding over what has happened to our beloved Natalie.
We would like to thank everyone, particularly the Virginia State Police who worked tirelessly in the search and recovery process. They have been thoroughly professional and very comforting to us.
Natalie's University of Richmond family has surrounded us as well during these difficult days.
The people of Buffalo, New York, Natalie's hometown, have provided prayers, support and love. We have felt this from so many miles away over the past two days.
Natalie's life was full of blessings, reflected by her unwavering and steadfast Catholic faith. But, in so many ways, her life was just beginning. She was engaged to marry the love of her life, Michael Dougher, and we now include him as another son in our grieving family.
It has been extremely difficult to deal with this tragedy, but our faith, our family, and our friends all give us strength. Thank you for continued your prayers.
On Sunday, Nardin Academy High School Principal Rebecca Reeder released the following statement on behalf of Natalie's alma mater:
The hearts of all the members of the Nardin family are heavy with sadness for the Lewis family. Our sympathy, prayers and support are there for them during this very difficult time.
Reeder said that Nardin would be issuing a further statement on Monday.
Lewis and another victim were part of the University of Richmond's women's basketball program. That university held its commencement ceremony Sunday, and began the ceremony with a moment of silence for the two victims.
The university's president released a statement saying that the two women's "leadership and friendship will endure in the lives of so many."