CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It could take months for investigators in Bahamas to determine what caused the Fourth of July helicopter crash that claimed the lives of West Virginia businessman Chris Cline, his daughter Kameron Cline and five others.
Delvin Major, the chief investigator with the Air Accident Investigation Department of the Bahamas, told the Beckley Register-Herald a number of factors will play a role in the investigation.
“Depending on the circumstances, retrieving the cause could take weeks, months or even a year. It’s just really hard to tell at this point, but I can definitely say we won’t know the cause any time this week,” Major told the paper.
The 15-passenger helicopter, owned by Cline, was retrieved Friday. Authorities were still awaiting the official identifications of the victims.
One of the workers at Cline’s Big Grand Cay island told The Nassau Guardian newspaper he heard a loud crash shortly after the helicopter took off. He said he entered the water to try and search for the helicopter but was later told it was already back in the states.
Cline would have turned 61 Friday. His daughter, a recent graduate of LSU, was 22. Reaction from across the state of West Virginia poured in Friday. Many who said Cline was a difference-maker who liked to stay out of the spotlight.
Gov. Jim Justice told MetroNews affiliate WTNJ in Beckley Friday he’d been told the group left Cline’s Big Grand Cay, at 2 a.m. Thursday headed for Fort Lauderdale, Fla. because someone was sick.
“I don’t know if we have all of the straight news yet, any of us,” Justice said
MetroNews has learned helicopter pilot, Cline’s friend, David Jude was killed in the crash along with Delaney Wykle, 22, of Beckley, a childhood friend of Kameron Cline. Wykle recently graduated from WVU. Social media and other reports have said two other victims were Jillian Clark and Brittney Searson, sorority sisters with Cline at LSU. Clark was from Louisiana and Searson from Florida.
There were also a seventh victim, a man.
The Cline family released the following statement Friday evening in connection with the deaths of Chris and Kameron Cline:
“We are all so deeply saddened to announce the deaths of our beloved father Chris and our sister Kameron. This loss will be felt by all those who had the privilege of having known them. Chris 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. Our sister, Kameron was a bright light to all who knew her, loving, smart, compassionate and full of joy and enthusiasm for life and other people. Their legacy of love and inspiration will live on through all of us. We love and miss them dearly but take comfort knowing they are with God now. We ask for prayers and privacy in our time of grieving.”
President Donald Trump tweeted Friday night about the deaths calling Cline an “energy expert.”
My deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of great businessman and energy expert Chris Cline, his wonderful daughter, Kameron, and their friends, on the tragic accident which took place in the Bahamas. The great people of West Virginia will never forget them!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2019
It’s believed the helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff near Walker’s Cay, which is the northernmost island in the Bahamas. It was found two miles off the coast in 16 feet of water. It wasn’t reported missing until about 2 p.m. Thursday when it didn’t show up in Florida.