(Reuters) - Coal tycoon and self-made billionaire Christopher Cline, 61, was among seven people who died in a helicopter crash on Thursday in the Bahamas, the Register-Herald of West Virginia reported, citing friends of Cline.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice confirmed Cline’s death on Twitter but offered no details on how it happened.
“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,” Justice said.
“Cathy and I are praying for his family and all those involved in this tragedy,” Justice said.
Cline died the day before his 62nd birthday and was a native of Beckley, West Virgina.
Among those killed was also one of Cline’s daughters, the Register-Herald said, citing unnamed friends of Cline.
The helicopter went down shortly after takeoff in the Atlantic Ocean early Thursday near Walker’s Cay, the northernmost island in the Bahamas, BNO News said, citing unspecified U.S. and Bahamian officials.
The helicopter was headed for Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, the Palm Beach post reported, citing Bahamian Air Accident Investigation Department’s chief investigator, Delvin Major.
Cline resides in Seminole Landing, Florida, near North Palm Beach, the newspaper reported.
Neither Major, nor a representative with the Bahamas Department of Civil Aviation were available early Friday for comment.
A submerged helicopter with seven aboard had been found near Walker’s Cay, the Register-Herald said, citing Nassau authorities.
Forbes listed Cline number 1,281 on its billionaires list with an estimated net worth of $1.8 billion, listing him as self-made.
Cline started working in the coal mines at age 15 and later dropped out of Marshall University, Forbes said.
A major business breakthrough came in the early 2000s when he bought up high-sulfur coal reserves in Illinois, gambling that improved technology would make it more economical to burn dirty fuel, Forbes said.
Cline took coal mining firm Foresight Energy FELP.N public in 2014, and sold a controlling stake in 2015 for $1.4 billion cash.
Reporting by Daniel Trotta and Rich McKay; Editing by Michael Perry and Himani Sarkar