Chris Cline, the billionaire coal magnate from West Virginia who once dated Tiger Woods’s ex-wife Elin Nordegren, has been killed in a helicopter crash alongside one of his daughters and five others on Thursday off the coast of the Bahamas.
He died a day before his 61st birthday after their helicopter crashed off the coast of the Bahamas as it was flying back to the United States, The Register-Herald reported on Thursday.
Bahamian police said the crash took place off of Grand Cay island, killing everyone on aboard.
It is unclear which of his daughters was with him. He has two; Kameron, who is in college, and Candice, a 37-year-old mother-of-two.
A statement from the Royal Bahamas Police Force said the helicopter went missing shortly after leaving Big Grand Cay and authorities and local residents later found the crash site two miles off Grand Cay.
Police identified those killed as four women and three men but did not provide names.
Cline’s death was announced on Twitter by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice.
‘Today we lost a WV superstar and I lost a very close friend,’ Justice wrote on his Twitter account.
‘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.
‘Cathy and I are praying for his family and all those involved in this tragedy.’
Daniel Linville, a state lawmaker in West Virginia, tweeted: ‘Very sad to hear of the passing of Chris Cline.
‘He was very successful in business. He had been a big supporter of Marshall University and many charities in Southern WV.’
A friend of Cline’s told The Register-Herald that the helicopter took off from the Bahamas and was en route to Fort Lauderdale when it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.
Cline’s daughter, David Jude, Delaney Wykle, two unidentified friends, and a helicopter mechanic from Florida were also said to be on board the ill-fated chopper.
He was the founder of Foresight Energy, the company that has grown into a coal mining empire.
In 2015, he sold most of his stake in the publicly traded company for $1.4billion, according to Forbes.
He died with an estimated net worth of $1.8billion.
Cline was married twice and had two sons and two daughters.
His first wife, Sabrina, died of breast cancer in 1987. He remarried in 1993 and then divorced seven years later.
In 2013, Cline began a relationship with Nordegren, 39, who divorced the legendary golfer Woods in 2010.
The couple was together for a year before splitting up. In 2016, they reconciled before once again breaking up.
Nordegren, 39, was photographed recently with her new love interest, former NFL star Jordan Cameron.
The two are soon expecting a child.
‘What he accomplished in the coal mining industry was nothing short of amazing,’ said Gary White, a former coal company president, said of Cline on Thursday.
‘He started working for his father (a small-contract miner) and rose to be one of the titans in the industry.
‘Notwithstanding his success, he never forgot his humble beginnings.’
Cline attended Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia before dropping out at the age of 22 to go into the coal business.
He donated money to the university, which released a statement expressing sorrow over his death.
‘The entire Marshall community is in disbelief and shock over the sad news of this tragic accident that took the life of a prominent Son of Marshall and so many others,’ said Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert.
‘Our hearts are heavy.’
Cline first founded the Cline Group in 1990. The company operated a number of underground coal mines across the country, according to Metro News.
In 2003, Cline Group sold its interests in mining and process in Appalachia to focus on new mines in the Illinois Basin.
In 2006, he founded Foresight Energy, which relied on renewed interest in high sulfur and high Btu coal.
His success earned him the nickname ‘New King Coal.’
Cline said he didn’t mind the negative views of him held by the public in light of concerns that the burning of coal was contributing to climate change.
‘As far as the social acceptability of coal, I like to think I’m part of supplying the cheapest energy in America,’ Cline told Bloomberg in 2010.
Eventually, Foresight Energy amassed some three billion tons of coal reserves throughout Illinois and the Northern Appalachians.
In 2011, his charity, the Cline Family Foundation, donated $5million to West Virginia University’s athletic department and medical school.
That same year, he gave $5million to Marshall University for research on sports medicine.
Cline also donated $3.5million toward scholarships for Marshall student athletes.
Marshall paid tribute to Cline by inaugurating the Chris Cline Athletic Complex in 2014.
‘I’m devastated,’ Marshall’s athletic director, Mike Hamrick, said on Thursday.
Cline also owned a lavish yacht called Mine Games which has its own submarine.
The 164 ft yacht, which was built by Gulf Coast-based Trinity Yachts, boasts five bedrooms, two formal dining rooms, a poolside bar, a hot tub, and a rental price of $265,000 per week.