Person works on helicopter blades

Billionaire coal man Chris Cline killed in helicopter crash

Coal tycoon Chris Cline, one of his daughters, and five others were killed in a helicopter crash in the Bahamas early July 4.

Bahamian authorities investigating the helicopter crash said the aircraft was reported missing about 2:50 a.m. local time. The helicopter departed from Big Grand Cay, Mr. Cline’s private island, sometime between midnight and 2 a.m., according to The Palm Beach Post. It was reported missing after it failed to arrive in Ft. Lauderdale, its intended destination.

According to The Register-Herald of Beckley, West Virginia, Mr. Cline’s hometown, the helicopter took off from the private island in the middle of the night due to the illness of somebody aboard who required medical attention. A Bahamian official told The Register-Herald that the helicopter “made no request or permission to go” before the flight.

CNN reported that residents of Grand Cay, an island in the Abacos group, discovered the helicopter overturned in about 16 feet of water near Walker Cay, a couple of miles from Mr. Cline’s island. All of the helicopter’s seven occupants were still inside the aircraft. There were no survivors.

Family members and friends confirmed that 22-year-old Kameron Cline, one of Mr. Cline’s daughters,  was among the victims, along with Brittney Searson, 21, Kameron’s friend and classmate at Louisiana State University; and Delaney Wykle, a childhood friend, who had just earned her nursing degree from West Virginia University.

Also killed in the crash were the pilot and a helicopter mechanic from Florida.

The Department of Civil Aviation, the Royal Bahamas Police, and the Defense Force are investigating the helicopter crash.

Although investigators have not determined any factors that may be to blame for the crash, the weather does not appear to have been an issue.  A meteorologist from the Bahamas Department of Meteorology told The Palm Beach Post that there were no adverse weather conditions in the area at the time.

According to The Palm Beach Post, authorities identified the helicopter as a twin-engine Agusta s.p.a. Model AW139. FAA records show the helicopter was built in 2008. The helicopter can accommodate 15 passengers and two crew and has a fuel range of 600 miles.

Mr. Cline was the majority owner of St. Louis-based Foresight Reserves LP. According to Forbes, he started working in the coal mines at age 15.

“Success came after he bet big in the early 2000s, buying up high-sulfur coal reserves in Illinois on a belief that new tech would make the dirty fuel cleaner to burn,” Forbes reported.

In 2014, he took his coal mining firm Foresight Energy public, selling a controlling stake the following year for $1.4 billion in cash. In 2017 he opened a new coal mine in Nova Scotia and had another one in the works in western Canada.

Mr. Cline was also a philanthropist who built orphanages in Haiti, donated millions to Marshall University and the University of West Virginia, and built the YMCA Paul Cline Memorial Youth Sports Complex in Beckley in his father’s name.

One of Mr. Cline’s lawyers described him as “a billionaire [who] never lost touch with the days he lived in a double wide and used a blow dryer to thaw his winter pipes,” according to Forbes.

Mike Andrews, a lawyer in the firm’s Personal Injury and Products Liability section, focuses much of his practice on aviation accident litigation. He has represented people seriously injured in aviation crashes and the family of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes.

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