Billionaire Chris Cline & Daughter Kameron Remembered at Service a Week After Helicopter Crash
Over a week after the father-daughter pair crashed into the water shortly after leaving Grand Cay in the Bahamas, a “Celebration of Life Service” for the billionaire coal tycoon, 60, and the recent Louisiana State University graduate, 22, was held at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center in West Virginia on Friday.
Thousands gathered to say their final goodbyes to Cline and his daughter, including West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, President of West Virginia University Gordon Gee, President of Marshall University Jerome Gilbert, West Virginia University basketball coach Bob Huggins and Murray Energy founder and CEO Robert Murray.
Brian Glasser, Cline’s attorney of 20 years, delivered an emotional eulogy, touching on how many people Cline “inspired,” Joe Carey, a spokesman for Glasser, tells PEOPLE.
“We are here all sharing a loss,” Glasser said. “Today, we feel a community of loss.”
“Chris Cline brought us together in this moment, in this place. It is impossible not to be touched by a flame that hot,” he continued.
“First you see the bright light, and then you feel the heat. It is impossible not to be inspired by that. The man was a human being. He was part of the crooked timber of humanity. He had his excellences, and his fatal flaws,” he added.
“But the idea of Chris is so inspiring because he rose form such an improbable starting point, from Isaban, West Virginia, to the absolute pinnacle of business success,” Glasser said.
Glasser went on to describe Cline as “an intensifier,” who “pushed people around him.”
“Chris was so focused, so driven, that it was hard to keep up,” added Glasser.
Nonetheless, Glasser shared that Cline “respected hard work” and that he “was proud to be a coal miner.”
“He always treated these proud men and women with ultimate respect,” he said.
Glasser also spoke on how Cline was never afraid to “fail.”
“Failure in his organization was acceptable,” he said. “There were plenty of things that didn’t work as well as designed, strategies that we had that unravelled, situations that needed to be fixed. Vast piles of money and time, vaporized. But that was just a part of it all.”
“Chris never wallowed in failure, he just kept his hands on the wheel,” Glasser continued.
Because of this, Glasser said “there will never be another boss, partner or counter party like Chris Cline.”
“The mold lies shattered on the floor,” he said. “I see his soul — outlined in the white light of a supernova — hard hat in hand — walking toward the slope.”
Cline and his group of six crashed into the water shortly after leaving Grand Cay in the Bahamas, The New York Times reported. There were no survivors and an investigation is ongoing.
Bahamas Police spokeswoman Shanta Knowles told the Associated Press that she did not believe there was a distress call before the aircraft went down. The Palm Beach Post reported that weather was likely not an issue.
News reports identified the other five killed as David Jude and Geoffrey Lee Painter, both with a helicopter company; as well as Jillian Clark, Brittney Searson and Delaney Wykle, Kameron’s friends. All of the victims were American citizens with the exception of the pilot, who was from the United Kingdom, according to CNN. The group was headed for Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Authorities have recovered the damaged helicopter but a spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board in the U.S told PEOPLE it could take up to 24 months before they determine what caused the crash.
The Cline family previously confirmed to PEOPLE that Chris and Kameron were among the victims.
“We are all so deeply saddened … This loss will be felt by all those who had the privilege of having known them,” the Cline family said of the tragic loss. 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.”
Chris and Kameron left a “legacy of love and inspiration,” the family’s statement continued. “[It] 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.”
Searson’s family also released a statement to PEOPLE after her death was confirmed.
“Our hearts are shattered at the loss of our beautiful daughter Brittney Layne Searson. Brittney was an amazing girl – full of life, love, and adventure. She was smart, courageous, beautiful inside and out, and a born leader,” the statement read.
“Our family grieves deeply with all other victims of this tragedy and asks for your prayers and privacy as we lay our beloved daughter to rest,” they added.
Chris was worth $1.8 billion, according to Forbes, having sold a $1.4 billion stake in his Foresight Energy in 2015. Chris, a West Virginia native, began working in the state’s coal mines at age 22, CNN reported. He later founded the Cline Group and Foresight.