Chris Cline, Daughter Dead in Helicopter Crash
July 5, 2019 - Chris Cline, the billionaire coal magnate and philanthropist with West Virginia roots, has died in a helicopter in the Bahamas with six other people. Reports say his daughter was also on board the craft, although authorities have not confirmed that information.
The Register-Herald reported that friends told the newspaper that those on board were Cline, “David Jude, one of Cline’s daughters, two young adults from Beckley, unidentified friends and an unidentified helicopter mechanic from Florida.” That newspaper is local to Beckley, West Virginia, where Cline – once dubbed “New King Coal” was from. The Herald-Dispatch named another of the victims as Delaney Wykle (Wykle, who studied at West Virginia University, is friends with the four Cline siblings on Facebook.)
The Bahamas Press also wrote: “We confirm Cline’s daughter, David Jude, Delaney Wykle, two unidentified friends and an unidentified helicopter mechanic from Florida are among the victims.” Authorities have not formally released any victims’ names, though. Old Facebook posts show Jude had gone on trips to exotic destinations with one of Cline’s daughters in the past.
Specifically, the chopper went down near Walker’s Cay, Abaco, and is believed to have crashed shortly after taking off. Horrifically, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar told the Register-Herald: “We’ve located the craft. It seems as if the seven passengers are still onboard so therefore submerged, but we can’t confirm anything yet.”
Jim Justice, the governor of West Virginia, where Cline was from, confirmed the news in a tweet, writing, “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.”
According to EOnline, Cline, who was married twice, has two sons and two daughters. It’s not clear which daughter was on the craft. According to Forbes, Cline’s children are all adults; his first wife died of cancer, and his second marriage ended in divorce.
Cline once dated Tiger Woods’ ex Elin Nordegren.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Cause of the Crash Is Not Clear
According to WPTV, the cause of the helicopter crash is not clear. Although Cline was a Virginia native, he had a home in West Palm Beach.
The crash was also confirmed by a Bahamian official, The Palm Beach Post reported. Bahamian Air Accident Investigation Department Chief Investigator Delvin Major said the helicopter crashed between Grand Cay and Fort Lauderdale, killing seven people on board, according to the newspaper, which added that a friend says the helicopter may have been traveling from the Bahamas to Fort Lauderdale because someone on board was ill.
Officials told a Bahamian newspaper that the timeline of the crash was still unclear.
According to the Register-Herald, though, the officials did not confirm the identities of those on the helicopter, although they said all seven were Americans.
Brenton Southern Baptist Church wrote on Facebook: “Unfortunately we have confirmed by the family that Chris Cline was in a helicopter crash very early in the morning near the Bahamas. There are reports of several others aboard the helicopter including his younger daughter. Chris was one of the twelve charter members of our church when it began nearly 50 years ago. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. We will post more as it develops.”
2. Cline Named One of His Mines After a Daughter & Gave His Four Children Trusts
According to Forbes, Cline named one of his coal mines after his daughter, Candice.
His first wife was named Sabrina, and she died of cancer in 1987. His second wife was named Kelly, and they were married from 1993 to 2000. He has a daughter named Kameron Cline and two sons named Christopher and Alex in addition to Candice. An obituary for Sabrina’s father indicates that only Candice was her daughter with Chris Cline.
Again, it’s not clear which daughter was reportedly in the helicopter and authorities have not formally confirmed that information.
Candice Cline’s name is now Candice Cline Kenan. On Facebook, she says that she “studied Real estate at University of Georgia,” “lives in Charleston, South Carolina,” and is from Beckley, West Virginia. At the time of her wedding, she was described as the director of a private foundation (she’s listed as running the Cline Family Foundation.)
Cline’s younger daughter, Kameron, wrote on Facebook that she liked wakeboarding. She also wrote that she went to The Benjamin School, lives in West Palm Beach, Florida, and was from Beckley, West Virginia. She was a 2019 graduate of LSU and was in a sorority.
A United States Securities and Exchange Commission document for Foresight Energy LP lists Cline’s children in referencing various trusts.
For starters, there was the Alex T. Cline 2017 Irrevocable Trust, “the beneficiary of which is Alex T. Cline, a child of Mr. Cline,” and “The Candice Cline Kenan 2017 Irrevocable Trust, the beneficiary of which is Candice Cline Kenan, a child of Mr. Cline.” The document says there is also a “Christopher L. Cline 2017 Irrevocable Trust, the beneficiary of which is Christopher L. Cline, a child of Mr. Cline” and the “Kameron N. Cline 2017 Irrevocable Trust, the beneficiary of which is Kameron N. Cline, a child of Mr. Cline.”
3. Cline Developed & Operated More Than 25 Coal Mining Facilities
Chris Cline made his fortune in coal mining. His website bio explains, “Chris Cline is the founder of Foresight Energy. Mr. Cline has more than 35 years experience in the coal industry.”
According to the website, Cline began his career “as a contract miner in southern West Virginia, Mr. Cline has developed and operated over 25 coal mining, processing and transportation facilities in the Appalachian Region and the Illinois Basin, including some of the most productive long wall mining operations in the country. Today, Mr. Cline controls more than three billion tons of coal reserves in Illinois and Central Appalachia.”
The biography added that Cline “developed and/or operated over 25 coal mining, processing and transportation operations in the Appalachian Region and the Illinois Basin” and “Controls more than three billion tons of coal reserves in Illinois and Central Appalachia.”
Although he dropped out of Marshall University, he was a major donor to the school.
4. Tributes Flowed in for Cline, Who Was a Major Philanthropist in West Virginia
Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky wrote on Twitter: “America lost a great man today. My family is heartbroken at the loss of our dear friend, Chris Cline. 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.”
Randy Hunt, Public Address Announcer at WVU Tech Golden Bear Athletics, wrote on Facebook, “Oh my goodness. Chris Cline and other family dead in Copter crash. My daughter was close to this family. Another young girl was on the flight that we knew also. Heart breaking. Prayers for all these families. ????”
West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Evan Jenkins released a statement that said: “I am devastated by the loss of Chris Cline. A generous home state supporter who’s worked so hard for the YMCA in Beckley will be a lasting tribute to him. The most genuine person came out of the ‘School of Hard Knocks’ to achieve everything positive. This is a real loss of a loving father for his family, heart breaking for them and all of the state.”
Christopher Cline was 60-years-old.
5. Cline Had a Net Worth of $1.8 Billion
Christopher Cline was an extremely wealthy man. How wealthy? According to Forbes, he was worth an estimated $1.8 billion.
He got his start working in coal mines at age 15, Forbes reports, and then “bet big in the early 2000s, buying up high-sulfur coal reserves in Illinois on a belief that new tech would make the dirty fuel cleaner to burn.”
His coal mining company went public in 2014, netting him $1.4 billion, and he opened a mine in Nova Scotia in 2017, according to Forbes. The magazine reports that Cline used some of his money to buy a Lamborghini “and a 200-foot yacht called Mine Games.”