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NTSB: Helicopter spun out before Bahamas crash that killed 7 Americans

The National Transportation Safety Board has released the preliminary report detailing the July 4th crash that killed a West Virginia coal tycoon and six others.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The helicopter carrying coal billionaire Chris Cline began spinning before it plunged into the ocean near the Bahamas and killed everyone on board, federal authorities said Tuesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report details the July 4 accident and its aftermath but doesn't include a cause. Cline, his daughter Kameron and three of her friends died along with a pilot and copilot in the crash off Cline's private Big Grand Cay island.

The aircraft was leaving the island to take two passengers to Florida for medical treatment, the NTSB said.

A witness saw the helicopter rotate to the left three to four times, followed by whooshing noises and the sound of an impact, the report said. It was found upside-down in about 16 feet (5 meters) of water with its rotor blades separated. Investigators brought it to a secure site in the United States.

RELATED: NTSB takes over investigation of deadly Bahamas helicopter crash

Credit: AP
In this Sept. 6, 2014 photo, Chris Cline speaks as Marshall University dedicates the new indoor practice facility as the Chris Cline Athletic Complex in Huntington, W.Va.

Flight and data recorders have been recovered and shipped to the NTSB in Washington for analysis, the Bahamas Air Accident Investigation Department has said.

Cline's death led to eulogies from coal industry leaders, government officials and academics, who described him as a visionary and generous philanthropist. He accumulated a $1.8 billion fortune from a career that he began years ago as a coal miner in southern West Virginia. Cline bought Big Grand Cay in 2014.

The full investigation into the crash could take up to two years, a NTSB spokesman said earlier this month.

RELATED: Investigators scour scene of Bahamas chopper crash for clues

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