Saturday July 4th, 2020 9:09PM

The Latest: Helicopter crash victim identified by family

By The Associated Press
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NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — The Latest on a helicopter crash that killed seven people in the Bahamas (all times local):

2:10 p.m.

One of the victims of the helicopter crash that killed West Virginia coal magnate Chris Cline has been identified as Brittney Layne Searson.

The 21-year-old Searson was a friend of Cline's daughter, Kameron, who also died in the crash off Grand Cay Island.

The Searson family issued a statement Saturday asking for privacy and expressing how their hearts have been "shattered at the loss of our beautiful daughter." She had just graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in kinesiology.

She is survived by her mother, Kimberly; her father, Wayne; and a brother, Shane.

All seven people aboard the Augusta AW139 helicopter were killed when it crashed Thursday en route to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Thursday.

---

5:15 p.m.

A former teacher of two young women who died in a helicopter crash off the Bahamas described them as inseparable friends and caring and humble students.

Steven Anderson is a social studies teacher at The Benjamin School, a prep school with campuses in south Florida. He said in a statement Friday that 22-year-old Kameron Cline and 21-year-old Brittney Searson were excellent students who "lit up the room."

Cline was the daughter of West Virginia coal magnate Chris Cline, who was also one of the seven U.S. citizens who died when the Augusta AW139 helicopter they were aboard crashed Thursday en route from the Bahamas to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The school also provided notes the girls published to each other in their yearbooks, including one in which Searson said to Cline that she couldn't wait "to take on the rest of our lives together."

Searson's mother declined comment when reached by phone Friday.

___

1:15 p.m.

A spokesman for the attorney of Chris Cline is confirming that the billionaire coal entrepreneur and his daughter were among the seven Americans killed in a helicopter crash in the Bahamas.

Joe Carey is a spokesman for Cline's lawyer in West Virginia, Brian Glasser. He says Cline and his 22-year-old daughter Kameron were on board the aircraft when it went down.

Authorities in the Bahamas have recovered seven bodies from the helicopter that crashed as it traveled from the island to Fort Lauderdale.

Cline worked his way up from West Virginia's underground mines to become one of the country's top coal producers and amass a $1.8 billion fortune.

He donated extensively to President Donald Trump and other Republican politicians.

___

11:45 a.m.

Leaders of industry, government and academics in West Virginia are describing billionaire Chris Cline as a coal industry visionary and a generous giver.

Police in the Bahamas tell The Associated Press they were told to look for a missing helicopter carrying Cline and six other Americans. The bodies of seven people have since been recovered from the downed helicopter, and authorities are working to identify them.

Cline grew up dirt-poor and worked his way up from the state's underground mines to become a billionaire, with a Florida mansion and his own island chain in the Bahamas.

West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney described him as "a very farsighted entrepreneur" with a "Midas touch."

Forbes estimated his fortune at $1.8 billion this year. Cline donated heavily to President Donald Trump and other Republicans. Federal records show he gave the president's inaugural committee $1 million in 2017 and spread thousands more to conservative groups as well as committees representing prominent Republicans such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

He also gave at least $8.5 million to Marshall University.

___

10:30 a.m.

Aviation safety investigators in the Bahamas are working to determine the cause of a helicopter crash that killed seven Americans.

None of the bodies recovered from the downed helicopter have been identified, but police Supt. Shanta Knowles told The Associated Press on Friday that the missing-aircraft report from Florida said billionaire Chris Cline was on board. She said the group of Americans from Big Grand Cay failed to arrive as expected in Fort Lauderdale. Cline was a billionaire coal tycoon and has been major donor to Republican politicians.

Jaime Nixon is an aviation safety analyst for the Air Accident Investigation Department of the Bahamas . She said a specialized ship was coming from Florida with equipment to pull the helicopter from the water.

The Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority told the Federal Aviation Administration that the Augusta AW139 helicopter was located in the water at about 7 p.m. on Thursday.

___

9:30 a.m.

Police in the Bahamas say the bodies of seven Americans in a downed helicopter have been taken to the capital in Nassau to be officially identified.

Police superintendent Shanta Knowles said they responded to a missing aircraft report from Florida, and were told that billionaire Chris Cline and a group of Americans from Big Grand Cay failed to arrive as expected in Fort Lauderdale. Cline, a billionaire coal tycoon, has been major donor to Republican politicians.

Knowles said information was preliminary and subject to change, but she did not believe there had been a distress call from the aircraft.

She said she believed that the helicopter was still in the water.

___

22:56 p.m.

Police in the Bahamas say a helicopter flying from Big Grand Cay island to Fort Lauderdale has crashed, killing seven Americans on board.

A statement from the Royal Bahamas Police Force said the cause of Thursday's crash two miles off Grand Cay was under investigation.

It did not provide the names of the people killed but identified them as four women and three men.

It said police and civil aviation authorities were probing the crash.

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