Coal tycoon and self-made billionaire Christopher Cline, 61, was among seven people who died in a helicopter crash on July 4th in the Bahamas.
The helicopter went down shortly after takeoff in the Atlantic Ocean early near Walker’s Cay, the northernmost island in the Bahamas.
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.
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 public in 2014, and sold a controlling stake in 2015 for $1.4 billion cash.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice described Cline as a kind-hearted individual and a personal friend who will be missed by many people who benefited from his generosity, over the course of more than three decades.
“We were able to work together on a bunch of different things, but Chris did so much for so many,” Justice told MetroNews. “Oftentimes, when people get going and they get so wrapped up in what they’re doing — and they have to be that, in order to perform at the level that they perform — but when they do that and, at the same time, they always remember their roots, they always remember to be kind and to give back, and that giving back is what really motivates and propels greatness, in my opinion. And, he always did that, always did that so graciously.”
Justice recalled the early days of Cline’s business career, which began in the Beckley area in the 1970s.
“My dad and (Cline’s) uncle had been working on a transaction and everything, and we actually owned Pioneer Fuel, and Dad sold Pioneer Fuel to Chris Cline, and then Chris took off from there, and that was probably the beginning or one of the beginnings of something that Chris started down the road and built and built and built, and lo and behold, look what happened. He just had an incredible mind and incredible passion,” Justice said.
The cause of the accident, which also took the life of Cline’s daughter, Cameron, and five other people, remains under investigation.