February 28, 2024


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

Access Bank chief executive Herbert Wigwe, his wife and son, and the former group chairman of the Nigeria Stock Exchange, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, died in the crash, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in a post on X. Both of the helicopter’s pilots were also killed, according to authorities.

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

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

The helicopter caught fire upon impact, Graham added, citing witness reports. Witnesses also reported rain and a wintry mix when the crash happened, he said.

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

Authorities have yet to publicly identify the people killed but condolences have began pouring in for the Wigwe family and Ogunbanjo.

The governor of Nigeria’s Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, said he is “extremely shocked and devastated” and said the deaths are an “irreparable loss.”

“Wigwe was a colossus in Nigeria’s financial sector, leading Access Bank to become an international brand that placed Nigeria on the global map of first-class financial services,” Obaseki said in a post on X.

Wigwe became the Group Managing Director and chief executive of Access Bank in 2014, according to the company’s website. CNN has reached out to the bank for comment.

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Investigators will return to the crash scene Sunday to continue documenting the site, including using a drone to create an aerial map of the wreckage, Graham said. He requested anyone who witnessed the crash contact the NTSB and provide any available photos or video of the incident.

“The identities of the deceased will be released once positive identification has been made and next of kin notifications have been made,” the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said Saturday.

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

Peter Obi mourns 

Former presidential candidate, Peter Obi has commiserated with the family of Wigwe, Ogunbanjo and Access Bank Holdings over the losses.

Obi, in a statement on his X account, described the loss as one that’s felt across the nation. He recalled how he and Wigwe connected years back in Anambra.

“Herbert, a determined and forward-thinking individual, led Access Bank to new heights following his brother Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.

“His noteworthy contributions extended beyond the professional realm, with commendable philanthropic efforts in health and education, exemplified by the establishment of Wigwe University, showcasing his deep commitment to education as a driver of development.

“The loss of such an exceptional individual reminds us of life’s fleeting nature, encouraging us to live with a purpose that contributes to the betterment of humanity. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Herbert, his beloved wife, his son, and all those who lost their lives in the tragic plane crash. May God grant them eternal rest and provide strength to Herbert’s family, Access Holdings, and all of us mourning this irreplaceable loss.”

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