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Us Billionaire Among Seven Dead In Helicopter Crash Off Abaco

Hearses at Grand Bahama Sailing Club after the victims’ bodies arrived from Abaco. Photo: Vandyke Hepburn

Hearses at Grand Bahama Sailing Club after the victims’ bodies arrived from Abaco. Photo: Vandyke Hepburn

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Chris Cline (photo/chriscline.org)

By AVA TURNQUEST and DENISE MAYCOCK

Tribune Staff

A helicopter crash off Grand Cay, Abaco claimed the life of billionaire coal tycoon Chris Cline, his daughter and five other people yesterday.

Mr Cline died a day before his 61st birthday after their helicopter crashed as it was flying back to the United States,

Close family friend West Virginia Governor Jim Justice confirmed the deaths in a series of tweets yesterday evening following reports that seven Americans had been found in a submerged helicopter some two miles offshore.

According to police, the helicopter (N32DCC) took off from Big Grand Cay around 2am yesterday, on its way to Florida.

“The aircraft was reported missing to the Royal Bahamas Police Force at about 2.53pm on Thursday after it did not arrive at the intended destination,” the police statement read.

The helicopter was found overturned in 16 feet of water, off Grand Cay.

Other victims were identified as David Jude, two young adults from Beckley, West Virginia, unidentified friends and an unidentified helicopter mechanic from Florida, according to the Register-Herald, a West Virginia newspaper.

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The bodies of the crash victims arrived in Grand Bahama early on Friday. Photo: Denise Maycock/Tribune staff

Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar told The Tribune the incident happened around 2am yesterday, however local officials did not release information until last evening.

“It’s all very scant,” he said when asked about the reporting delay.

Mr D’Aguilar continued: “I’m sure the police will provide that information. I was advised it happened early this morning (Thursday). What then transpired from then and where we are now is still under investigation.”

Tributes poured in on social media for the seven passengers who perished in the crash, with many expressing shock and heartbreak over the tragedy.

The aircraft was headed to Fort Lauderdale with four women and three men, according to police.

“Today we lost a WV superstar,” Mr Justice’s tweet read. “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.”

US Senator Sue Cline wrote: “Prayers for family and friends of my great friend Chris Cline and his daughter Cameron and her dear friends who we loss (sic) today in a helicopter crash. Chris was (an) exceptional human being and we all loved him so much. Such a loss for all seven aboard today. Our hearts are broken.”

Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold told the Register-Herald: “Words can’t express the absolute sorrow and disbelief. Southern West Virginia was Chris’ love and his legacy of compassion and giving back will last for ever.”

The helicopter was found two miles offshore, according to police.

The Air Accident Investigation Department will head to Grand Cay this morning to begin investigations, according to Chief Investigator Delvin Major.

He said the department was notified of the incident sometime after 4pm.

“We do not know the time when it happened, a lot of information is going around. We cannot say that, we are the investigators, we can’t speculate. The timeline is still unclear,” Mr Major said.

Comments

John 1 year, 9 months ago

Almost Thirteen Hours passed from the time the helicopter took off and the time it was reported missing. And on such a short flight which would have been about an hour or so. There have to be a better means of monitoring air and sea craft. What was the possibility of anyone on the craft being rescued? Was any distress calls sent out and who will be responsible for preserving the craft and the debris for a full investigation. Surely the family of the owner would want a full investigation as to the cause of the tragic crash.

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BahamaRed 1 year, 9 months ago

Not necessarily in a helicopter, if they were cleared and left The Bahamas, it would be up to officials at the destination to realize they never made it. And clearly they were unaware up until the point they reported it.

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Baha10 1 year, 9 months ago

Doubt this was a “cleared” Flight from Walkers/Grand Cay at 2am in the morning. Must have been an Emergency Flight that could not await day break?

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Gotoutintime 1 year, 9 months ago

Don’t believe they left at two o’clock in the morning—Maybe in the PM not the AM?

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DDK 1 year, 9 months ago

Unless they were partying?

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Clamshell 1 year, 9 months ago

NBC News says they did take off at 2 a.m., one of the folks was very ill, headed to FL for treatment.

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B_I_D___ 1 year, 9 months ago

In a situation such as this, what would have happened is that the pilot would have had an IFR (Instrument) flight plan on file, as ALL flights within Bahamas airspace after sunset must be on an IFR flight plan...BUT, he would not activate that until he got up into the air and started to talk to air traffic control. They most likely took off, started to have troubles immediately, never got a chance to activate the flight plan and all that goes with that, tracking, etc before the flight was lost. ATC won't know to start search unless that flight plan is active and the flight misses check ins or arrival times. If they never activated the flight plan in the first place, all that goes out the window. Sounds like they had problems immediately after takeoff and the pilot was more involved with saving the aircraft, or TRYING to save the aircraft, than talking to someone on the radio. In a helicopter, when things go bad, they go VERY BAD and in a BIG HURRY.

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aeronautic1 1 year, 9 months ago

  1. Helicopter - 400 different parts, all trying to kill you at the same time.

  2. According to an ATP Rotor and check airman, the AS135 has had issues.

  3. Does this big rotor 15 pax aircraft carry an FDR/CVR?

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John 1 year, 9 months ago

A non fiery crash of a helicopter in 16 feet of water with no survivors deserves further investigation, especially since there was no communication of mechanical trouble. I would say.

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BahamaRed 1 year, 9 months ago

A helicopter crash in 16ft of water is survivable, depending upon the height from which they crashed. Once the chopper would have hit the water, it would have filled, then it would have rolled. At this point the occupants could have busted out the windows-providing they were still conscious- unbuckle the seatbelts, and safely exit the helicopter.

My guess is they were either killed on impact or didn't know helicopter egress tactics.

In any event RIP to all involved.

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