Nigerian bank CEO, his wife and son, among those killed in California helicopter crash

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The CEO of a major Nigerian bank, his wife and son were among the six people who died in a helicopter crash in a Southern California desert late Friday.

World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala announced in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that Access Bank chief executive Herbert Wigwe died in the crash.

Wigwe’s wife and son, as well as Abimbola Ogunbanjo, the former group chairman of the Nigeria Stock Exchange also died in the crash, Okonjo-Iweala said.

“My deepest sympathies and condolences to the Wigwe family, the Ogunbanjo family, Access Bank Group employees and Management @myaccessbank and my younger Brother Herbert’s partner Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede. May the souls of the departed rest in perfect peace,” Okonjo-Iweala said in the post.

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu also identified Wigwe, his wife, Chizoba Wigwe, his son Chizi, and Ogunbanjo as the four passengers who died in the crash. Two pilots, who have yet to be identified, also died in the crash.

“Their passing is an overwhelming tragedy that is shocking beyond comprehension. I extend my condolences to the Wigwe and Ogunbanjo families, the business community, and all those impacted by this harrowing incident,” Tinubu wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Access bank also confirmed Wigwe’s death in a statement on X.

“Today, we bid farewell to a visionary leader, @HerbertOWigwe, whose passion and unwavering commitment to excellence transformed Access into a global powerhouse. His legacy of excellence and compassion will continue to inspire us all. Rest in peace, Herbert Wigwe. Your impact will forever be felt,” the bank said.

Helicopter crashes in California

The Federal Aviation Administration said a Eurocopter EC130 helicopter crashed around 10 p.m. on Friday near Nipton, California, which is 60 miles south of Las Vegas in San Bernardino County. The FAA is investigating alongside the National Transportation Safety Board.

NTSB member ​​​Michael Graham told reporters during a news conference that the helicopter was operated by California-based charter company Orbic Air and was traveling from Palm Springs, California, to Boulder City, Nevada.

The helicopter took off around 8:45 p.m. and crashed just after 10 p.m. near Interstate 15 in Halloran Springs, California. Graham said witnesses either saw the plane crash or the aftermath and reported the crash occured amid rainy and wintry conditions.

“There was fire when the aircraft did contact the terrain,” Graham said.

In a second new conference on Sunday, Graham said the helicopter had descended from an altitude of around 1,000 to 1,500 feet, sped up, and “impacted the terrain in a nose low and right bank angle.”

The debris field from the crash was 100 yards long, Graham said. He said all the major components of the aircraft have been found.

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Graham said all four passengers, the pilot-in-command and a safety pilot died. He did not release the names of those on board.

“I’d like to express our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives in this terrible tragedy,” Graham said.

Contributing: Krystal Nurse, N’dea Yancey-Bragg, and Jeanine Santucci

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