(Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch via AP)

Chopper Crash Kills Coal Billionaire

The Latest: West Virginians praise billionaire Chris Cline

July 05, 2019 - 1:03 pm

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

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.

Aviation safety investigators in the Bahamas are working to determine the cause the crash.

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 group of Americans from Big Grand Cay failed to arrive as expected in Fort Lauderdale.

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.