THE CEO of one of Nigeria’s largest banks has died alongside his wife and son after the helicopter they were travelling in crashed.
Chief executive of Access Bank Herbert Wigwe, 57, was among six people who were killed when the aircraft plummeted into a US desert.
The helicopter reportedly crashed south of Interstate 15, near Halloran Springs Rd, in Southern California’s Mojave Desert shortly after 10pm on Friday.
Its two pilots and Bamofin Abimbola Ogunbanjo, former chair of NGX Group, the Nigerian stock exchange also died.
The deaths of Wigwe, his family, and Ogunbanjo were confirmed by a former Nigerian finance minister, now the director-general of the World Trade Organisation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Saturday.
She wrote in a post on X: “Terribly saddened by the news of the terrible loss of Herbert Wigwe … his wife and son as well as Bimbo Ogunbanjo in a helicopter crash.
“May the souls of the departed rest in perfect peace.”
Wigwe’s death has sent shockwaves across the world and in the banking sector, where he was widely considered an industry leader.
Access Bank’s assets and presence grew beyond borders in several African countries under his leadership.
The dad was previously executive director at another of Nigeria‘s biggest banks, Guaranty Trust Bank.
Nigerian presidential spokesman Bayo Onanuga said Wigwe’s passing was “a terrible blow” for Nigeria and Africa’s banking industry.
He wrote on X: “Wigwe had a big vision to make Access Holdings (the parent company) Africa’s biggest, with all the unquenchable thirst for acquisitions.”
Michael Graham of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, said the helicopter went down about 75 miles northeast of Barstow.
He said at a press conference on Saturday night: “From what was reported from witnesses, there was fire when the aircraft did contact the terrain.”
The aircraft did not have a cockpit voice recorder or a flight data recorder and was not required to have either, he added.
No information was known about the two crew members – a pilot and a safety pilot – who died.
Mr Graham said the Airbus EC-130 left Palm Springs Airport at about 8.45pm on Friday and was travelling to Boulder City, Nevada – where NFL teams Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers are today playing in the Super Bowl.
It was a charter flight operated by Orbic Air LLC.
Witnesses travelling on the I-15 called 911 to report the crash at a remote site not far from the California-Nevada border, as well as fire on the aircraft and some downedlines.
They later described the weather conditions at the time of the crash as raining with a “wintry mix”.
Mr Graham said: “This is the beginning of a long process. We will not jump to any conclusions.”