A billionaire donor to President Donald Trump was one of seven Americans killed in a helicopter in the Bahamas on July 4.
Chris Cline, a coal executive from West Virginia, was one of four males among the deceased, friends confirmed to The Register-Herald, a West Virginia newspaper. Friends said that one of Cline’s daughters also died in the crash as well as two young adults from Beckley.
“West Virginia lost a superstar, without any question. A giving, good man,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice told the paper about Cline’s death. “I just love him with all my soul. People couldn’t even imagine this. As governor, I will tell you we’ve lost a great West Virginian.”
“America lost a great man today. My family is heartbroken at the loss of our dear friend, Chris Cline,” added Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin in a statement. “A brilliant businessman & one of the most generous people I have ever met. He came from humble beginnings & never forgot his roots. He loved America.”
Today we lost a WV superstar and I lost a very close friend. Our families go back to the beginning of the Cline empire – Pioneer Fuel. Chris Cline built an empire and on every occasion was always there to give. What a wonderful, loving, and giving man.
— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) July 5, 2019
According to Bloomberg, Cline started working at a coal mine when he was 22 and eventually owned a company, Foresight Energy LP, that was at one point worth more than $2.6 billion.
Cline donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee in 2017 and donated $1 million to a group supporting the presidential campaign of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
“He was a young man,” said Brian Glasser, an attorney who represented Cline. “He was audacious. He was a great man, and he will be missed.”
Other victims in the crash included David Jude and Delaney Wykle, reported the Herald-Dispatch. Both the Register-Herald said one of the victims was a mechanic from Florida.
Chris Cline, a West Virginia native who built a coal empire and a reputation for charitable giving, has died in a helicopter crash.
Cline, who grew up in Beckley, was 60. He would have had his 61st birthday on Friday.https://t.co/PIKQimLjaw
— Chad Hedrick (@WSAZChadHedrick) July 5, 2019
A Facebook profile for a Delaney Wykle who lived in West Virginia and was friends with Cline’s daughters says she was a student at West Virginia University.
The Royal Bahamas Police Force said in a statement late Thursday that the aircraft vanished shortly after leaving Big Grand Cay. Authorities and local residents later found the wreckage two miles off Grand Cay.
Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar told The Tribune, a local news outlet, that the crash happened around 2 a.m. on Thursday. Local officials didn’t provide details for over half a day, he said.
Christopher Cline, a North Palm Beach coal-mining mogul, is reported to have been one of seven people who died in a helicopter crash.https://t.co/hz0dUnIKzl
— The Palm Beach Post (@pbpost) July 5, 2019
“It’s all very scant,” D’Aguilar said when asked about the reporting delay. “I don’t know the sequence of events of who called who. I’m sure the police will provide that information. I was advised it happened early this morning (Thursday). What then transpired from then and where we are now is still under investigation.”
The country’s Air Accident Investigation Department was en route to Grand Cay on Friday morning to investigate, Chief Investigator Delvin Major told the outlet. He said the department was informed of the crash after 4 p.m. on Thursday.
“We do not know the time when it happened, a lot of information is going around,” he said. “We cannot say that, we are the investigators, we can’t speculate. The timeline is still unclear.”