NEWS UPDATE: Billionaire Cline, six others, dies in a helicopter crash

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West Virginia coal billionaire mining entrepreneur and coal tycoon and benefactor to southern West Virginia, and a reported six others died in a helicopter crash early Thursday in the waters off the coast of the Bahamas, friends of Cline reported to The Register-Herald on Thursday afternoon.

Six of the victims were from the United States, the Royal Bahamas Police Force said.Police said a helicopter took off from Big Grand Cay around 2 a.m. local time Thursday and was reported missing more than 12 hours later around 2:50 p.m. when it didn’t arrive in Fort Lauderdale, its intended destination.Police officers and residents of Grand Cay discovered the aircraft overturned in 16 feet of water about two miles off Grand Cay in the Abacos and recovered the bodies of four females and three males, police said.

The Department of Civil Aviation, the Royal Bahamas Police and the Defense Force are investigating.Cline’s daughter, Kameron, 22, was among those on the aircraft, according to a family statement.”This loss will be felt by all those who had the privilege of having known them. Chris was one of West Virginia’s strongest sons, an American original, full of grit, integrity, intelligence and humor, a testament that our hopes and dreams are achievable when we believe and commit ourselves to action,” the family said. “Our sister, Kameron, was a bright light to all who knew her, loving, smart, compassionate and full of joy and enthusiasm for life and other people.”The pilot of the helicopter has been identified as 52-year-old Geoffrey Lee Painter of Barnstaple, United Kingdom.Bahamas police identified the others as David Jude, 56, of Kentucky; Brittney Layne Searson, 21, of Palm Beach, Florida; Jillian Nicole Clark, 22, of Los Angeles; and Delaney Lee Wykle, 22, of Washington, D.C.

Chris Cline, who would have turned 61 on Friday, was one of the charter members when Brenton Southern Baptist Church church started, it said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. We will post more as it develops,” the West Virginia church said.Evan Jenkins, a justice at the West Virginia Supreme Court, said the state has lost a philanthropist who donated to several programs.”His selfless and generous support for programs and projects throughout the state improved the lives of countless West Virginians,” he said in a statement. “His life’s story was one of hard work, love of family and caring support for others. My deepest condolences go out to his family.

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