CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A mechanical issue may have caused the helicopter crash that killed seven people, several of them with West Virginia ties, on July 4th off the coast of the Bahamas, according to an attorney for one of the victims.
“The evidence points to catastrophic mechanical failure, probably having to do with the tail,” Brian Glasser told MetroNews’ Hoppy Kercheval.
A Charleston attorney, Glasser represented Chris Cline, 60, the billionaire coal entrepreneur and West Virginia native, who died in the crash along with his daughter Kameron, 22.
Also among the victims were two of Kameron’s recent fellow graduates and sorority sisters from Louisiana State University — Brittney Searson, 22, of Florida and Jillian Clark, 22, from Louisiana — and Kameron’s childhood friend, Delaney Wykle, 22, of Beckley, a graduate of West Virginia University.
David Jude, 57, a friend to Chris Cline and Kermit, W.Va. native, was also killed, according to authorities, along with Geoffrey Painter, 52, of Barnstaple in the United Kingdom.
Records showed the two operated Cloud 9 Helicopters.
In some reports, Painter was identified as the pilot of the Cline helicopter with Jude acting as co-pilot at the time of the crash.
“We have not gotten a full layout of where each occupant was in the craft so we cannot say who was in what seat (at this time),” said Captain Delvin Major, chief investigator of air accidents at Air Accident Investigation Department of the Bahamas, when asked about it on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
.@DelvinMajor speaks with @HoppyKercheval about the ongoing helicopter crash investigation involving https://t.co/rn6maOkkqD. native Chris Cline in the Bahamas. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIAoe1 pic.twitter.com/y9Eh6Uqbz3
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) July 8, 2019
The Agusta AW139, with space for 15 passengers, crashed in shallow waters off Big Grand Cay, Cline’s private retreat, in the early morning hours of July 4, 2019 while reportedly en route to Fort Lauderdale, Fl. due to some kind of medical emergency involving Kameron Cline.
As of Monday morning, investigators were not yet confirming a possible cause for the crash.
“Right now, it’s too early to say what part of the craft may have been contributing to the accident,” said Capt. Major.
The crash site was one to two miles from the point of takeoff, he said.
“From where it took off and departed was more north than where it normally would depart from,” Major noted. “From what we’re told, the weather was very good at the time.”
Involved in the investigation with the Air Accident Investigation Department of the Bahamas were officials with the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and others.
On Sunday, AAID reported the flight and data recorders for the helicopter had been recovered and were being shipped to the NTSB office in Washington, D.C. for analysis.
At the same time, the helicopter wreckage was en route Florida for a full reconstruction.
“The complete craft has been recovered and it is at the facility,” Capt. Major confirmed on Monday morning.
“We have the experts from the manufacturer of the craft who, once they lay it out, will determine if all of the craft made it to the analysis and, if something is not there, that’s something, another avenue that we’ll be looking at.”
Additional analysis may be necessary beyond the Florida facility, information from AAID Bahamas indicated.