Published On: Sun, Feb 11th, 2024

CEO of Nigeria’s Access Bank among 6 killed in California helicopter crash

CEO of Nigeria’s Access Bank among 6 killed in California helicopter crash
CEO of Nigeria’s Access Bank among 6 killed in California helicopter crash

The CEO of one of Nigeria’s largest banks was among the six people killed when the helicopter they were on crashed Friday night in California, an official said.

Herbert Wigwe, the group CEO of the Lagos-based Access Bank, was on board the helicopter with his wife and son, along with Bimbo Ogunbanjo, World Trade Organization Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in a post on X.

She did not include the names of Wigwe’s wife and son.

Ogunbanjo, also known as Abimbola Ogunbanjo, is the former chair of NGX Group, the Nigerian stock exchange.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement Saturday evening that all six people who were on board are dead. It has not publicly identified the victims.

The helicopter crash was reported at about 10:12 p.m. Friday, a quarter-mile east of Interstate 15’s Halloran Springs exit, it said. The aircraft was identified as either a Eurocopter EC130 or an Airbus Helicopters H130, according to federal officials. They’re essentially the same model.

Halloran Springs, the name for a natural springs site in the Mojave Desert and its surrounding community, is about 80 miles south of Las Vegas, where the Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs is set to be held Sunday.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, scheduled a news conference on the crash for 6 p.m. local time.

“The death of Roosevelt Herbert Wigwe is a terrible blow for Nigeria and Africa’s banking industry,” Bayo Onanuga, spokesperson and special adviser to President Bola Ahmed Adekunle Tinubu of Nigeria, said on X.

“Wigwe had a big vision to make Access Holdings Africa’s biggest, with all the unquenchable thirst for acquisitions,” he continued, referring to Access Bank’s parent company.

Nigerian journalist and celebrity Modele Sarafa-Yusuf said on her social media accounts Saturday that Wigwe was a friend, and that his loss is profound.

“He had such amazing impact in banking and finance, art, education, and philanthropy,” she said. “Cerebral and quick-witted, he was always a joy to be around.”

Temperatures in the area were in the high 20s at the time of the crash, according to National Weather Service data. Winds were fairly light, at around 10 mph, but gusts were starting to move in, and some were measured at 29 mph before the sun rose Saturday, according to the weather service.

The California Highway Patrol reported shortly after the crash that a “large band of snow” was moving through Halloran Springs, according to a log of traffic incidents. It said the snow was moderate and mixed with rain.

The cause of the crash has not been determined.

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