UPDATE Saturday 12.20pm: Police have officially identified the seven people who were killed in Thursday’s helicopter crash:
(1) Geoffrey LeePainter DOB 30-10-66 of Barnes Staple, United Kingdom (Pilot)
(2) Kameron Nicole Cline DOB 21-03-97 of Washington, DC
(3) Brittney Layne Searson DOB 16-08-97 of Palm Beach, Florida
(4) Jillian Nicole Clarke DOB 07-10-96 Los Angeles, Califonia
(5) Davis Jude DOB 02-12-62 of Kentucky
(6) Wykyle Delaney Lee DOB 18-06-96 of Washington, DC
(7) Christopher Cline DOB 05-07-58 of New York.
By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
A Bahamasair jet left Grand Bahama International Airport on Friday afternoon with the bodies of billionaire Chris Cline, his 22-year-old daughter, Kameron, and five other people who were killed in a helicopter crash off Abaco.
Although police have not yet released the other victims' names, The Sun Sentinel reported that 21-year-old Brittney Searson, of Palm Beach, FL, and Jillian Clarke, a native of Kenner, La, also died in the crash. Another person on board the ill-fated aircraft was identified as David Jude, along with two other young adults from West Virginia.
The remains were taken by boat from Abaco to Grand Bahama early Friday morning by officers of the Royal Bahamas Police Force Marine Division.
The vessel arrived at about 12.39am at the Police Marine Base in Lucaya, near the Grand Bahama Sailing Club. Morticians from three local funeral businesses removed the bodies, which were placed in five hearses and transferred to the Rand Memorial Hospital morgue.
At about 2.45pm on Friday, the bodies of the victims were put on a Bahamasair jet flight to Nassau.
Investigations into the crash are being conducted by the Airport Accident Investigation Department (AAID).
Mr Cline, a 60-year-old coal tycoon, his daughter, and five other people were on board an Augusta SPA helicopter registration number N32CC, which departed Big Grand Cay in the Abacos for Fort Lauderdale, and crashed the same day July 4. The aircraft departed Grand Cay at 2am on Wednesday, and was reported missing around 2.53pm on Thursday. Four women and three men were onboard.
After the aircraft was reported overdue, search and rescue efforts were immediately launched for the missing helicopter, which was later discovered submerged in 16ft of water about two miles off Grand Cay, where Mr Cline owned a private cay.
According to the Sun Sentinel, Kameron Cline, Searson and Clark belonged to Louisiana State University’s Phi Mu, the nation’s second oldest sorority. They were spring 2019 graduates of the university.
According to a statement by AAID issued by Grand Bahama NEMA official Tammi Mitchell, AAID has dispatched a team of investigators to the crash site. They will be joined and assisted by a team from the United States.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as well as the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada and the manufacturer of the aircraft and engine have been notified and will be providing assistance to the AAID with the investigation.
A salvage team has been dispatched to recover the aircraft and transport it to Florida where an inspection and investigation will be carried out.
"The AAID is mindful of the families that lost loved ones in this tragedy. We understand people want answers rapidly. We offer our deepest condolences. At present we are assessing this occurrence," the statement read.
"Once on site, our team will collect data, conduct witness interviews, examine and photograph the wreckage before it is transported to the facility in Florida for further analysis and documentation."
The statement indicated that AAID also will be looking to examine the maintenance history of the craft, review weather information, operations policies, regulations requirements and the operation of the aircraft.
AAID will have to examine all the information before drawing any conclusion.
"It is too early to say what the causes and contributing factors of this accident might be. The AAID will be also working with local law enforcement, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and other government and non-governmental agencies to ensure that those affected and next of kin are provided with information about the accident, and the next steps," the statement read.
AAID will provide updates on its website at www.baaid.org, on its Twitter page at bahamas_aaid, and through its WhatsApp Chat.
AAID thanked all emergency personnel and first responders for the support provided to local community and the assistance provided its team.