The man who started Deer Run Mine in Hillsboro was killed in a helicopter crash near the Bahamas on Thursday, July 4, along with six others.
West Virginia native Chris Cline, who would have turned 61 the following day, had operated mines in West Virginia before starting Foresight Energy to focus on the Illinois coal basin. Deer Run Mine in Hillsboro began production in 2012 until it was idled in March 2015 due to continued elevated carbon monoxide levels. Production began again in January 2019. Foresight Energy went public in 2014, and in 2015, Murray Energy Corp. acquired controlling interest.
Cline's helicopter took off from Big Grand Cay in the Bahamas around 2 a.m. local time Thursday and was reported missing more than 12 hours later around 2:50 p.m. when it didn't arrive in Fort Lauderdale, its intended destination.
Police officers and residents of Grand Cay discovered the aircraft overturned in 16 feet of water about two miles off Grand Cay in the Abacos and recovered the bodies of four females and three males, police said. The Department of Civil Aviation, the Royal Bahamas Police and the Defense Force are investigating.
Cline's daughter, Kameron, 22, was among those on the aircraft.The pilot of the helicopter has been identified as 52-year-old Geoffrey Lee Painter of Barnstaple, United Kingdom. The others were David Jude, 56, of Kentucky; Brittney Layne Searson, 21, of Palm Beach, FL; Jillian Nicole Clark, 22, of Los Angeles; and Delaney Lee Wykle, 22, of Washington, D.C.
Cline grew up in a coal family–his father and grandfather worked at mines. He started working as an underground miner in West Virginia in 1980 at age 22, and a decade later founded his energy development company, the Cline Group.