BECKLEY, W.Va. — Thousands gathered in West Virginia Friday to say goodbye to billionaire coal executive Chris Cline and his daughter, Kameron Cline, who were killed last week in a helicopter crash.
Brian Glasser, Cline's attorney and longtime friend, said in his eulogy at the memorial service in Beckley that Cline had the rare characteristic of being willing to fail.
"Chris never wallowed in a failure, he just kept his hands on the wheel, foot on the accelerator, eyes pointed down the road," Glasser said.
Glasser spokesman Joe Carey said Gov. Jim Justice, West Virginia University basketball coach Bob Huggins, WVU President Gordon Gee and Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert were among those attending the service at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
Friends and well-wishers on Thursday remembered Cline as a person who used his wealth to help people in trouble, often anonymously.
The Register-Herald reports orthopedic surgeon Joe Prudhomme was one of several speakers at the community vigil Thursday in Beckley. He told the crowd that once he and Cline stopped at a gas station and saw a sign about someone needing a bone marrow transplant. Cline covered the full cost of the stranger's operation, he said.
"I could call Chris from South Africa and say 'Hey! I need help!' and he would say 'I'm on my way,' no questions asked," Prudhomme said.
Cline lived in Beckley for years when Kameron was a child. That is how she and Beckley native Delaney Wykle became friends. Those three and four others were killed last week when their helicopter crashed after taking off from a remote private island in the Bahamas.
Cline's cousin, Steve Deweese, told the crowd Cline gave money to local residents for medical bills, education costs, disaster relief and extracurricular activities at schools.
"He didn't have to help but he did," Deweese said. "That was just him."
Danielle Ormandy spoke of Wykle, who had just graduated from West Virginia University with a nursing degree and planned to begin work at Raleigh General Hospital in August.
"She was my light during the darkest of times and my support system through the good, the bad and the ugly," Ormandy said. "I'm forever grateful that God chose Delaney as my best friend."
Kameron Cline's mother, Kelly Cline-Fama, wrote a letter that was read at the vigil. She said she had given her daughter a locket upon her recent graduation from Louisiana State University. It contained a photo of Cline-Fama with Kameron Cline as a baby. She had hoped that one day Kameron Cline would be able to replace the photo with one of her and her own daughter, Cline-Fama wrote.
Friends also shared loving memories of David Jude, a Mingo County native and pilot who also died in the July 4 crash.
"Dave was a genuine guy," Ardie Jenkins said. "If he counted you as a friend, he would take a bullet for you."
Kameron Cline's friends and fellow LSU graduates Brittany Searson and Jillian Clark were also killed in the crash along with Geoffrey Painter of the United Kingdom.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash and expects to release a preliminary report in about two weeks. The full investigation could take up to two years.