Americans killed in Bahamas helicopter crash included West Virginia Trump donor's daughter, her best friend: officials

The Bahamas helicopter crash that killed billionaire coal magnate Chris Cline and six other people included his daughter and her best friend who were “inseparable.”

Kameron Cline, 22, and Brittney Searson, 21, both went to The Benjamin School in Palm Beach, Florida, before going to college together at Louisiana State University where they were Phi Mu sorority sisters, The New York Post reported.

“Both were inseparable, just terrific,” Benjamin School social studies teacher Steven Anderson said. “They were very good students, cheerful and lit up the room when they were in there. It was a privilege to teach them. They made teaching rewarding.”

Brittney Searson, seen in an undated photo at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, was among the dead in a helicopter crash last week. (Kim Searson via AP)

Brittney Searson, seen in an undated photo at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, was among the dead in a helicopter crash last week. (Kim Searson via AP)


A 2015 yearbook from their private high school described the pair as being “attached at the hip,” the Palm Beach Post reported.

In addition to Cline, his daughter and Searson, pilot Geoffrey Lee Painter, 52, and family friend David Jude, 52, of Kentucky also were among those killed.

The helicopter crashed Thursday after taking off from a remote private island.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) spokesman Eric Weiss confirmed Monday that the wreckage was moved to a secure site in the United States. He said a preliminary report should be available in about two weeks. The full investigation could take up to two years.

The Bahamas Air Accident Investigation Department said crews recovered flight and data recorders and shipped them to the NTSB in Washington for analysis.

Bahamian officials said cranes pulled the 15-passenger Augusta AW139 from the ocean over the weekend. Investigators remained onsite Monday documenting wreckage to determine the complete craft was recovered.

Cline made his fortune revamping Illinois’ coal industry, Bloomberg reported. Born in a West Virginia town of only 200 residents, Cline began working as a miner at age 22. He founded the Cline Group to mine coal in the hills of Appalachia before starting Foresight Energy LP, a joint venture with Robert Murray’s Murray Energy Corp., to expand into Illinois and Missouri. Foresight Energy LP was worth $2.6 billion at its peak.

Cline contributed $1 million to President Trump’s inaugural committee in 2017. Before Trump was elected president, Cline originally donated to a different Republican — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — making a $1 million contribution to a super-PAC supporting Bush's campaign.


Cline also was a philanthropist who donated $5 million to his alma mater, Marshall University, for its sports medicine program.

Cline reportedly dated Swedish model Elin Nordegren, who previously was married to golfer Tiger Woods.

Click for more from The New York Post.