Chris Cline Among 7 Americans killed in Bahamas Helicopter Crash

Jul 5, 2019

This story was updated on 7/5/2019 at 9:20 a.m.

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — A helicopter carrying seven Americans to Fort Lauderdale, Florida crashed Thursday, July 4, off Grand Cay island in the Bahamas, killing everyone on aboard, Bahamian police said.

A statement from the Royal Bahamas Police Force said the helicopter went missing shortly after leaving Big Grand Cay and authorities and local residents later found the crash site two miles off Grand Cay. Police identified those killed as four women and three men but did not provide names.

The Register-Herald newspaper in Beckley, West Virginia, quoted Gov. Jim Justice as saying that one of the people killed in the crash was Chris Cline, whom the newspaper described as a “billionaire mining entrepreneur,” ‘‘coal tycoon” and “benefactor to southern West Virginia.”

“West Virginia lost a super star, without any question,” the newspaper quoted Justice as saying. “A giving, good man. I just love him with all my soul. ... As governor, I will tell you we’ve lost a great West Virginian.”

Justice told the newspaper he could not yet officially identify anyone else who died in the crash.

Justice’s spokesman, Jordan Damron, did not return an email or phone call asking for comment Thursday night to confirm his statements.

Bahamian police did not provide a cause of the crash but said an investigation with civil aviation authorities was underway.

Cline has been described as a billionaire. Forbes lists his net worth at $1.8 billion.

A Beckley, West Virginia native, Cline began his career working in coal mines at age 15. His coal mining company, Foresight Energy, went public in 2014. The company controls nearly 2.1 billion tons of thermal coal reserves in the Illinois Basin, according to its website. In 2015, Cline sold a controlling stake in the firm to Murray Energy for $1.4 billion cash.

"What he accomplished in the coal mining industry was nothing short of amazing," said Gary White, a member of Marshall University's Board of Governors, in a statement. "He started working for his father (a small-contract miner) and rose to be one of the titans in the industry."

Cline attended Marshall University and later was a philanthropic support of institution, donating $5 million to support the Marshall University Sports Medicine Institute and $3.5 million to one of the university's fundraising efforts.

In 2014, the university dedicated the Chris Cline Athletic Complex in 2014, according to a news release from Marshall.