Six dead, including Nigerian bank CEO and family in California helicopter crash, trade official says

Andrew Esibo/Getty Images for Global Citizen/File

Herbert Wigwe speaks on stage on September 18, 2021 in Lagos, Nigeria.



CNN

The CEO of a major Nigerian bank, along with his wife and son, were killed in a helicopter crash Friday night in the Mojave Desert near the California-Nevada border, according to a World Trade Organization official.

Access Bank chief executive Herbert Wigwe, his wife and son, and Abimbola Ogunbanjo, former chairman of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, died in the accident, World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said. A post on X. Officials said both pilots of the helicopter were killed.

According to National Transportation Safety Board member Michael Graham, the chartered Airbus EC130 helicopter was flying from Palm Springs, California, to Boulder City, Nevada, outside Las Vegas.

The plane, operated by Orbic Air, a California-based charter company, took off around 8:45 p.m. PT and crashed near Interstate 15 in Halloran Springs, California, shortly after 10 p.m., Graham said.

The helicopter caught fire on impact, Graham added, citing witness reports. Witnesses said there was a mix of rain and winter when the accident took place, he said.

The NTSB is investigating the cause of the crash and collecting evidence at the scene Saturday night in Halloran Springs, California, Graham said at a news conference.

Officials have yet to publicly identify those killed, but condolences have been pouring in for the Wigwe family. Ogunbanjo.

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Nigeria's president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, called the deaths “an overwhelming tragedy of incomprehensible shock,” according to a statement issued by his office.

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The governor of Nigeria's Edo state, Godwin Obaseki, said he was “deeply shocked and devastated” and that the deaths were an “irreparable loss”.

“Wigwe was a colossus in Nigeria's financial sector, Access Bank became an international brand that puts Nigeria on the global map of first-class financial services,” Obaseki said. A post on X.

Wigwe became the group managing director and chief executive of Access Bank in 2014, according to the company's website.

The bank called Wigwe a “visionary leader” with a legacy of “excellence and compassion”.

“Herbert's visionary leadership and unwavering commitment to social impact initiatives have left an indelible mark on Access Holdings and the communities we serve. His legacy will never be forgotten,” Bank X said in a statement.

The cause of the helicopter crash is not known.

Graham said investigators will return to the crash site on Sunday to continue documenting the site, including using a drone to create an aerial map of the wreckage. He asked that witnesses to the crash contact the NTSB and provide any photos or video of the incident.

A preliminary investigation report will be released in the coming weeks, but according to Graham, the full investigation could take up to two years before a final report is released.

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