Victims of Bahamas Helicopter Crash Including Billionaire Chris Cline and His Daughter Kameron
Chris Cline; Kameron Cline GETTY IMAGES/FACEBOOK
The seven passengers who were killed in a helicopter crash while en route to Florida on Thursday, including billionaire Chris Cline, have been identified.
The helicopter carrying 60-year-old Cline and six others smashed into the water shortly after leaving Grand Cay, an island in the Bahamas, The New York Times reported. The group, who all died in the crash, was headed for Fort Lauderdale.
Cline and his daughter Kameron Cline were among the seven victims, PEOPLE confirmed on Friday. According to CNN, the Royal Bahamas Police Force identified the four others onboard as American citizens, while the outlet also reported that the pilot was from the United Kingdom.
A spokesperson for the Royal Bahamas Police Force did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
This post will be updated as more is known about the deceased victims, who are:
Chris Cline ANDREW HARRER/GETTY IMAGES
Chris Cline, 60
The Cline family confirmed to PEOPLE on Friday that the coal industry billionaire and philanthropist and his daughter Kameron had died in the crash.
“We are all so deeply saddened … This loss will be felt by all those who had the privilege of having known them,” the family said.
Cline “was one of West Virginia’s strongest sons, an American original, full of grit, integrity, intelligence and humor, a testament that our hopes and dreams are achievable when we believe and commit ourselves to action,” his family said.
A native of Beckley, West Virginia, Cline began working in the state’s coal mines at age 22, according to CNN. He later founded the Cline Group and Foresight Energy, both in the mining and energy industries. In 2015, he sold a stake in the latter for $1.4 billion, according to Forbes. He was also a major donor to leading Republican politicians and previously dated Elin Nordegren, ex-wife of Tiger Woods.
“Today we lost a WV superstar and I lost a very close friend,” West Virginia’s governor, Jim Justice, wrote on Twitter Thursday. “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.”
Kameron Cline FACEBOOK
Kameron Cline, 22
Kameron, Cline’s daughter, was also killed in the crash.
“I still can’t believe it,” Greg Cline, Cline’s older brother, told The Palm Beach Post on Friday. “It’s like a dream … We were so close, all of us were.”
Kameron had recently graduated from Louisiana State University, her uncle Greg told the Post. She was 22, according to The New York Times. A family spokesman said she had three siblings: Tanner, 24; Logan, 25; and Candace, 37.
Greg described Kameron as “a sweet person,” and the family’s statement remembered her as “a bright light to all who knew her, loving, smart, compassionate and full of joy and enthusiasm for life and other people.”
Brittney Searson (left) with Kameron Cline COURTESY SEARSON FAMILY
Brittney Layne Searson, 21
Joining Cline and Kameron on the flight was Searson, a friend, former classmate and roommate of Kameron’s.
“Our hearts are shattered at the loss of our beautiful daughter Brittney Layne Searson. Brittney was an amazing girl – full of life, love, and adventure. She was smart, courageous, beautiful inside and out, and a born leader,” her family said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
“She touched everyone who had the privilege of meeting her with her loving spirit. We will never know what was in store for the next chapter of her life, but whatever she did, she would have worked hard and strove for success. The ripple of loss for so many lives is immeasurable,” her family shared.
“Our family grieves deeply with all other victims of this tragedy and asks for your prayers and privacy as we lay our beloved daughter to rest,” they added.
The group was in the Bahamas for vacation for the holiday, according to Searson’s mother, who added that her daughter and Kameron were close. Searson was from Palm Beach, Florida, according to CNN.
Clark, who was from Los Angeles, had recently graduated from Louisiana State University along with Kameron and Searson, according to WWL-TV. The outlet also reports that the three were all members of the Phi Mu sorority.
“The LSU community is mourning the loss of three recent graduates, along with all of those who lost their lives in this tragic accident. Kameron, Jillian and Brittney were all May 2019 graduates and had such bright futures ahead of them. Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of everyone affected,” Louisiana State University said in a statement, CNN reported.
Delaney Wykle FACEBOOK
Delaney Lee Wykle, 22
According to the Post, Wykle was a childhood friend of Kameron. CNN reports that she was from Washington, D.C. According to Forbes, Wykle had recently graduated from West Virginia University and recently passed the board exams for her degree in nursing.
Geoffrey Lee Painter, 52
Pilot Painter was identified as the pilot of the helicopter, according to CNN. He was from Barnstaple, United Kingdom.
David Jude, 56
Jude hailed from Kentucky, CNN reported. Following news of the crash, the West Virginia Golf Association paid tribute to him on Twitter.
“David was a great ambassador for the game of golf in the mountain state and always had a smile on his face,” the VGA said in a statement on Friday. “Please keep the Jude family in your thoughts and prayers in this difficult time.”
The Air Accident Investigation Department of the Bahamas said via Twitter late yesterday that salvage teams were "in place at the crash site" and were conducting "underwater surveying and mapping of debris field”. (AP)