The Latest: West Virginians praise billionaire Chris Cline

July 5, 2019 GMT

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — The Latest on a helicopter crash that killed seven people in the Bahamas (all times local):

11:45 a.m.

Leaders of industry, government and academics in West Virginia are describing billionaire Chris Cline as a coal industry visionary and a generous giver.

Police in the Bahamas tell The Associated Press they were told to look for a missing helicopter carrying Cline and six other Americans. The bodies of seven people have since been recovered from the downed helicopter, and authorities are working to identify them.

Cline grew up dirt-poor and worked his way up from the state’s underground mines to become a billionaire, with a Florida mansion and his own island chain in the Bahamas.


West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney described him as “a very farsighted entrepreneur” with a “Midas touch.”

Forbes estimated his fortune at $1.8 billion this year. Cline donated heavily to President Donald Trump and other Republicans. Federal records show he gave the president’s inaugural committee $1 million in 2017 and spread thousands more to conservative groups as well as committees representing prominent Republicans such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

He also gave at least $8.5 million to Marshall University.


10:30 a.m.

Aviation safety investigators in the Bahamas are working to determine the cause of a helicopter crash that killed seven Americans.

None of the bodies recovered from the downed helicopter have been identified, but police Supt. Shanta Knowles told The Associated Press on Friday that the missing-aircraft report from Florida said billionaire Chris Cline was on board. She said the group of Americans from Big Grand Cay failed to arrive as expected in Fort Lauderdale. Cline was a billionaire coal tycoon and has been major donor to Republican politicians.

Jaime Nixon is an aviation safety analyst for the Air Accident Investigation Department of the Bahamas . She said a specialized ship was coming from Florida with equipment to pull the helicopter from the water.

The Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority told the Federal Aviation Administration that the Augusta AW139 helicopter was located in the water at about 7 p.m. on Thursday.


9:30 a.m.

Police in the Bahamas say the bodies of seven Americans in a downed helicopter have been taken to the capital in Nassau to be officially identified.


Police superintendent Shanta Knowles said they responded to a missing aircraft report from Florida, and were told that billionaire Chris Cline and a group of Americans from Big Grand Cay failed to arrive as expected in Fort Lauderdale. Cline, a billionaire coal tycoon, has been major donor to Republican politicians.

Knowles said information was preliminary and subject to change, but she did not believe there had been a distress call from the aircraft.

She said she believed that the helicopter was still in the water.


22:56 p.m.

Police in the Bahamas say a helicopter flying from Big Grand Cay island to Fort Lauderdale has crashed, killing seven Americans on board.

A statement from the Royal Bahamas Police Force said the cause of Thursday’s crash two miles off Grand Cay was under investigation.

It did not provide the names of the people killed but identified them as four women and three men.

It said police and civil aviation authorities were probing the crash.