West Virginia coal billionaire and philanthropist Chris Cline died in a helicopter crash near the Bahamas on Thursday, the governor said.
“Today we lost a WV superstar and I lost a very close friend,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice tweeted. ” … Chris Cline built an empire and on every occasion was always there to give. What a wonderful, loving and giving man.”
Several other people were aboard the helicopter when it crashed, including Cline’s daughter, according to the Brenton Southern Baptist Church, which said it confirmed with family members.
Cline was one of the charter members when the church started, it said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. We will post more as it develops,” the church said.
There was no immediate information on the fate of others aboard the helicopter. CNN has reached out to authorities in the Bahamas for more information.
Evan Jenkins, a justice at the West Virginia Supreme Court, said the state has lost a philanthropist who donated to several programs.
“His selfless and generous support for programs and projects throughout the state improved the lives of countless West Virginians,” he said in a statement. “His life’s story was one of hard work, love of family and caring support for others. My deepest condolences go out to his family.
He came from a family of coal miners
Cline grew up in a coal family — his father and grandfather worked at mines.
He started working as an underground miner in West Virginia in 1980 at age 22, and a decade later founded his energy development company, the Cline Group.
His experience, proactive approach to mine development and the strength of his team enabled him to capitalize on opportunities others missed, his company Foresight Energy says on its website.
“The Cline Group was soon recognized across the industry as a reliable coal supplier, an excellent lessee, and a desired employer committed to the health and safety of its miners — characteristics that continue to drive its success today,” it said.
Cline Group operated underground coal mines in the country for several years before starting Foresight Energy to focus on Illinois mining.
Foresight Energy generated coal sales revenues of $1.097 billion last fiscal year, it says on its website.