Investigators scour scene of Bahamas chopper crash for clues

BAHAMAS (AP) – Accident investigators in the Bahamas are going well below the surface of the water to try to figure out what went wrong in the moments before a helicopter crashed after takeoff and killed seven people, including West Virginia coal magnate Chris Cline.

The Air Accident Investigation Department of the Bahamas said via Twitter late Friday that salvage teams were conducting “underwater surveying and mapping of debris field.”

The department said the operation has been underway since the crash of the Augusta AW139 chopper, which went down on Thursday in waters just off Grand Cay after departing for Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Authorities have said it is too early to draw conclusions about the cause of the crash. They do not believe a distress call was made, and they only began searching after police received a report from Florida that Cline and the others had failed to arrive in Fort Lauderdale as expected.

Those killed included Cline’s 22-year-old daughter, Kameron, and three of her close friends: Brittney Layne Searson, Jillian Clark, and Delaney Wykle. Searson, Clark and Kameron Cline were recent graduates of Louisiana State University. Wykle had recently graduated from West Virginia University.

Paula Wykle, Delaney’s mother, said she saw her daughter for about three hours after she passed her nursing boards on Tuesday. Then Delaney “went to the Bahamas to meet her childhood best friend,” Kameron Cline, whom she had not seen in about a year.

“She was going to start work in August and we told her, ‘This is your last chance to go before you become a grown-up,’” her mother said.

Wykle said that when one of the vacationing party got sick and needed to be transported back to the mainland, Delaney Wykle wanted to be there to help. That’s how she ended up on the helicopter.

“She got to practise nursing for one day,” Wykle said, calling her daughter “smart, loving, and one of the best friends anyone could ever ask for.”

The Wykle family is from Beckley, West Virginia. Louisiana State University’s (LSU) President F King Alexander issued a statement of condolence to all the crash victims and their families.

“The LSU community is mourning the loss of three recent graduates, along with all of those who lost their lives in this tragic accident. Kameron, Jillian and Brittney were all May 2019 graduates and had such bright futures ahead of them,” Alexander said.

The Searson family requested privacy in a statement on Saturday in which they said their hearts have been “shattered at the loss of our beautiful daughter.” She had a lifelong passion for dance and had just received a degree in kinesiology.