(Reuters) – Coal tycoon and self-made billionaire Christopher Cline was among seven people who died in a helicopter crash on Thursday in the Bahamas, the Register-Herald of West Virginia reported, citing friends of Cline.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice confirmed Cline’s death on Twitter but offered no details on how it happened.
“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,” Justice said.
“Cathy and I are praying for his family and all those involved in this tragedy,” Justice said.
All seven aboard the helicopter were killed and among the dead was one of Cline’s daughters, the Register-Herald said, citing unnamed friends of Cline.
The helicopter went down shortly after takeoff in the Atlantic Ocean early Thursday near Walker’s Cay, the northernmost island in the Bahamas, BNO News said, citing unspecified U.S. and Bahamian officials.
A submerged helicopter with seven aboard had been found near Walker’s Cay, the Register-Herald said, citing Nassau authorities.
Forbes listed Cline number 1,281 on its billionaires list with an estimated net worth of $1.8 billion (1.4 billion pounds), listing him as self-made.
Cline started working in the coal mines at age 15 and later dropped out of Marshall University, Forbes said.
A major business breakthrough came in the early 2000s when he bought up high-sulfur coal reserves in Illinois, gambling that improved technology would make it more economical to burn dirty fuel, Forbes said.
“He took coal mining firm Foresight Energy public in 2014, and sold a controlling stake in 2015 for $1.4 billion cash,” Forbes said.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Michael Perry)