One of the nation's last coal barons was killed along with six other Americans in a helicopter crash off Grand Cay Island in the Bahamas Thursday, authorities say. West Virginia billionaire Chris Cline died along with his daughter, friends, and the pilot, his lawyer tells NBC. The Royal Bahamas Police Force says the helicopter went missing soon after it left Big Grand Cay en route to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the AP reports. Residents later found the crash site around two miles away from the island. Authorities in the Bahamas say four men and three women, all believed to be US citizens, died in the crash. Civil aviation authorities are investigating the cause.
- Empire: Cline, who started working in coal mines when he was 15, died a day before his 61st birthday, reports Forbes. He founded the Cline Group to extract coal in Appalachia in 1990, but he made his biggest splash through the company he founded in 2006, Foresight Energy, to expand into Illinois. He took it public in 2014. The magazine pegged his net worth at $1.8 billion.
- Tribute: "Today we lost a WV superstar and I lost a very close friend," tweeted West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice. "Chris Cline built an empire and on every occasion was always there to give. What a wonderful, loving, and giving man."
- Donations: Cline, nicknamed the "King of Coal," was a renowned philanthropist and a major Republican political donor, the New York Times reports. He donated $1 million to a super PAC backing Jeb Bush for president in 2015, then later donated $1 million to President Trump's inauguration celebration. In terms of philanthropy, a major recipient was Marshall University in West Virginia, which he attended.
- From his lawyer: His attorney, Brian Glasser, paid tribute: “Our client Chris Cline died today. A billionaire, he never lost touch with the days he lived in a double wide and used a blow dryer to thaw his winter pipes. He was the most courageous client we ever had the privilege to represent. We will not see his like again."
- Unapologetic: In a 2017 Forbes profile, Cline said he didn't mind that plenty of people didn't like him or his business. The story points out that coal still accounts for 40% of the world's power needs. "People deserve the cheapest energy they can get," he told the magazine. "Tell the poor in India and China that they don't deserve to have reliable, affordable electricity."
- Personal: Cline was a divorced father of four, per ABC News. His first wife died of cancer. After he remarried and divorced, he famously dated Elin Nordegren, the ex-wife of Tiger Woods, for years. He owned a home in North Palm Beach, Florida, where Woods and Nordegren once lived together.
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