The victims who died with billionaire coal baron Chris Cline in a helicopter crash in the Bahamas include his daughter Kameron Cline, two of her sorority sisters at Louisiana State University, and a friend from West Virginia. Cline’s pilot and a helicopter mechanic also died on the fatal flight.
The doomed helicopter was discovered “overturned in about 16 feet of water off Grand Cay,” according to ABC 30. It crashed a few minutes after takeoff near a spot where Chris Cline owned private islands, but the cause of the crash is not clear. Seven people were on board overall.
Friends are mourning the three sorority sisters who died on the helicopter. Madelyn Andries wrote: “Kameron, Jill, and Brit were three of the best people that I had the honor to call my best friends. Come join us to celebrate their lives.” She shared news of a candlelight vigil. The three were members of the Phi Mu chapter.
“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,” President Donald Trump wrote. “The great people of West Virginia will never forget them!”
Here’s what you need to know about each victim:
On Facebook, Kameron’s photos showcased a carefree and happy life of beaches and friends. Kameron was the younger daughter of Chris Cline, the billionaire coal magnate and philanthropist who hailed from West Virgiia. Chris Cline and his daughter died in a helicopter in the Bahamas with five other people, his brother told the Palm Beach Post. Authorities have not formally named the victims, however.
According to EOnline, Chris Cline, who was married twice, has two sons and two daughters. Forbes reports that Cline’s four children are all adults.
Kameron Cline wrote on Facebook that she went to The Benjamin School, lived in West Palm Beach, Florida, and was from Beckley, West Virginia. She was a 2019 graduate of LSU and was in a sorority.
Greg Cline, Chris’s brother, told the Palm Beach Post that Kameron was “a sweet person.”
On Facebook, Kameron posted many photos showing excursions to white-sand beaches with friends. Other pictures show her in swimming suits or dressed up for nights out with friends. She posted photos on Facebook showing her with the other crash victim, Brittney Searson.
NOLA.com is now reporting that Jillian Clark, who was in a LSU sorority with Kameron Cline, was among the victims.
Clark was also listed as a 2019 LSU graduate, and was identified as a crash victim by family friends to NOLA.com. Clark excelled at volleyball in Louisiana, the newspaper reported. She was a setter on the Mount Carmel team.
Mount Carmel coach April Hagadone told NOLA.com that Clark was “a beautiful girl in the inside and out.” On Facebook, Clark wrote that she studied at LSU, went to Mount Carmel Academy, lived in Kenner, Louisiana, and was from Kenner, Louisiana.
According to the Advocate, Brittney Searson, another sorority sister, was also on the fatal flight. As with Kameron, Searson studied at LSU and went to The Benjamin School in Florida.
Brittney’s family later released this statement, along with a photo of her:
“Kimberly Searson, mother of Brittney Layne Searson, confirmed today that her daughter is one of the seven passengers who passed away tragically on July 5, 2019 when the helicopter they were travelling in crashed into the Atlantic Ocean during a flight from Grand Cay Island to Fort Lauderdale.
Brittney L. Searson was a 2019 graduate of Louisiana State University and member of Phi Mu sorority, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology. She graduated from The Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. in 2015. She began dancing at age 3 and had a true love for the art of dance. She danced at several studios in South Florida including Peggy Brown’s, Absolute Dance, and Vantage Pointe, and she was on The Benjamin School Dazzler Dance Team. She is survived by her mother Kimberly, father Wayne Searson and brother Shane Searson.”
“Our hearts are shattered at the loss of our beautiful daughter Brittney Layne Searson. Brittney was an amazing girl – full of life, love, and adventure,” the family said. “She was smart, courageous, beautiful inside and out, and a born leader. She touched everyone who had the privilege of meeting her with her loving spirit. We will never know what was in store for the next chapter of her life, but whatever she did, she would have worked hard and strove for success. The ripple of loss for so many lives is immeasurable. Our family grieves deeply with all other victims of this tragedy and asks for your prayers and privacy as we lay our beloved daughter to rest.”
Searson’s mother told the Palm Beach Post that her daughter was a “leader, strong, smart girl, beautiful.” She said the group had gone to the Bahamas for the July 4 holiday. Brittney’s photos on Facebook showed her on beaches and out with friends.
Brittney’s mother told the Palm Beach Post that her daughter “traveled the world with the Cline family.”
Chris Cline’s family remembered him as an “American original.”
“We are all so deeply saddened to announce the deaths of our beloved father Chris and our sister Kameron,” Cline’s family said in a statement. “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.”
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.”
According to Forbes, Chris Cline was worth an estimated $1.8 billion. 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.”
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.)
Paul Wykle, Delaney’s father, told the Palm Beach Post, that his daughter was friends with Kameron and had just earned a nursing degree from West Virginia University. “She passed her boards on Tuesday,” Paul Wykle said to the newspaper, “and died on Thursday.” He added that he believed his daughter went on the helicopter to help a person who was ill.
Friends remembered Delaney. “Prayers for the Wykle family. We lost one of our best friends today and it still doesn’t seem real. She had the sweetest soul and had so much life ahead of her. We love you and will never forget our time spent together sweet girl ❤️❤️” wrote one. “RIP to you all this is so sad…. RIP Delaney Wykle you were such a good person and so beautiful,” another wrote.
“So thankful to have known you Delaney Wykle. I will forever cherish the memories we all made cheering at Woodrow, the paint fights, going out to eat, etc. Cannot believe it. RIP beautiful girl! ? Sending prayers to all the families involved!” wrote another.
Jude was listed as a crash victim by The Register-Herald.
Old Facebook posts show Jude had gone on trips to exotic destinations with another one of Cline’s daughters in the past. Jude was Chris Cline’s pilot, according to WVMetroNews. West Virginia Golf Association Executive Director Brad Ullman recalled to the newspaper that Jude was both a great golfer and person. According to the newspaper, Jude “recently qualified and played in the West Virginia Open.”
WVGA wrote on Twitter: “The WVGA would like to send its condolences to the family of David Jude. David was a great ambassador for the game of golf in the mountain state and always had a smile on his face. Please keep the Jude family in your thoughts and prayers in this difficult time.”
A friend wrote on that story, “David Jude was just one of the good ol boys! He was alot of fun to be around and never met a stranger. R.I.P. ol buddy.” Another wrote on Twitter, “Wow. Didn’t know Mr. Cline or others lost, but David Jude was always nice and genuine in the time I spent around him at various golf events in WV. Made a common connection over Lanier Speedway the first time we met. RIP.”
The seventh victim was an unidentified helicopter mechanic from Florida.
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.
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.” The bodies were later removed and taken for identification.
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.”