ST. LOUIS – Seven people were killed Thursday in a helicopter in the Bahamas, including a billionaire coal tycoon who founded a St Louis-based energy company.
Chris Cline, a native West Virginian, would have turned 61 Friday. But instead, the coal executive, along with his daughter and five others, were killed in the crash.
Cline touched many lives and the tragedy has now left many shaken.
Cline started working in an underground mine at 22 and went on to become a billionaire and a major philanthropist, donating $5 million to his alma mater Marshall University for its sports medicine program.
At one point, Bloomberg called Cline the “king of coal.”
In 2006, Cline founded the St. Louis-based coal company Foresight Energy LP to operate mines in Illinois. The company has offices in the Metropolitan Square building downtown.
Reports say that at its peak, Foresight was worth $2.6 billion.
Cline sold most of his ownership stake in the company back in 2015 and went on to invest in other mines.
The deadly helicopter crash happened early Thursday morning off the coast of the Big Grand Cay Islands.
Cline’s 22-year-old daughter, Kameron, was among the others killed in the crash.
We spoke by phone with West Virginia Governor Jim Justice...he and Cline were close friends for years.
“He always remembered his beginnings. He always came home and with all that he gave so much to so many people,” said Gov. Justice. “It’s a terrible loss, a terrible loss to all of our great state of West Virginia. Just somebody that will never be forgotten, that’s for sure.”
The flight was going to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
A friend of Cline’s daughter who was with them in the Bahamas had become ill and he was flying everyone back so the friend could get medical care.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
Cline’s attorney, Brian Glasser, issued the following statement Friday:
“We are all so deeply saddened to announce the deaths of our beloved father Chris and our sister Kameron. 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. 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. Their legacy of love and inspiration will live on through all of us. We love and miss them dearly but take comfort knowing they are with God now. We ask for prayers and privacy in our time of grieving.”