Coal tycoon Chris Cline, who worked his way out of West Virginia’s underground mines to amass a fortune and become a major Republican donor, has died in a helicopter crash outside a string of islands he owned in the Bahamas.

Cline and his 22-year-old daughter Kameron were on board the aircraft with five others when it went down Thursday, July 4, a spokesman for his attorney Brian Glasser said Friday.

President Trump offered his condolences to the family in a tweet: “My deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of great businessman and energy expert Chris Cline, his wonderful daughter, Kameron, and their friends, on the tragic accident which took place in the Bahamas. The great people of West Virginia will never forget them!”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice told the paper about Cline’s death: “West Virginia lost a superstar, without any question. A giving, good man,” and  “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.”

Justice also mourned Cline on Twitter.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin in a statement: “America lost a great man today. My family is heartbroken at the loss of our dear friend, Chris Cline.” And he went on,“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.”

Chris Cline was known as a major donor for President Donald Trump and other Republicans. Cline gave the president’s inaugural committee $1 million in 2017 and shared thousands more with conservative groups as well as committees representing GOP bigwigs such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, according to federal records.

According to AP, authorities began searching for the copter after police received a report from Florida that Cline’s helicopter failed to arrive in Fort Lauderdale as expected on Thursday.

The bodies of the four women and three men were recovered Thursday and taken to the Bahamian capital of Nassau to be officially identified, said Delvin Major, chief investigator for the Bahamas’ Air Accident Investigation Department. 

A Royal Bahamas Police Force statement said authorities and locals found the site 2 miles off Big Grand Cay, a group of private islands Cline bought in 2014 for less than the $11.5 million asking price.

Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association said Cline began toiling in the mines of southern West Virginia at a young age, rising through the ranks of his father’s company quickly with a reserved demeanor and savvy business moves. He formed his own energy development business, the Cline Group, which grew into one of the country’s top coal producers.

Cline founded St. Louis, Missouri-based coal company Foresight Energy LP and expanded into Illinois in 2006. At its peak, the company was valued at more than $2.6 billion, according to Bloomberg.

Includes reporting from The Associate Press 

Categories: U.S.