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Top Nigerian Banker Among 6 Killed After Helicopter Crash in California

U.S.Top Nigerian Banker Among 6 Killed After Helicopter Crash in California

A helicopter carrying six people crashed and caught on fire on Friday night near the California-Nevada border, killing all of those aboard, the authorities said. The victims included Herbert Wigwe, a prominent Nigerian banker, and his wife and son, as well as Abimbola Ogunbanjo, another businessman.

The Federal Aviation Administration said that the Eurocopter EC130 helicopter crashed around 10 p.m. local time near Nipton, Calif., an unincorporated community about 60 miles south of Las Vegas in eastern San Bernardino County.

The helicopter departed from Palm Springs, Calif., at 8:45 p.m., and it was headed toward Boulder City, Nev., said Michael Graham, a board member with the National Transportation Safety Board, during a news conference on Saturday.

The charter flight crashed near Halloran Springs, Calif., around 10:08 p.m., Mr. Graham said, adding that all of those onboard — two crew members and four passengers — were killed. He said that witnesses reported that the helicopter crashed amid rainy and wintry conditions.

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

Nigeria’s president Bola Tinubu identified four of the victims as Mr. Wigwe; his wife, Chizoba Wigwe; his son Chizi; and Mr. Ogunbanjo.

“Their passing is an overwhelming tragedy that is shocking beyond comprehension,” Mr. Tinubu wrote on social media.

Access Bank P.L.C., where Mr. Wigwe was a director, first confirmed his death on Sunday morning, describing him in on social media as a “visionary leader” whose “impact will forever be felt.”

Mr. Wigwe, an alumnus of an executive program at Harvard Business School, was a key driver in the transformation of the bank into becoming one of Nigeria’s leading financial institutions.

According to Mr. Tinubu, Mr. Ogunbanjo was the former chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group P.L.C., a financial holding company.

The flight was operated by Orbic Air LLC, which officials said is based out of Burbank, Calif. The helicopter was last seen near Barstow, Calif., at 9:49 p.m., according to FlightAware, a flight tracking service.

The National Transportation Safety Board and F.A.A. are investigating the crash, officials said.

Emma Bubola contributed reporting. Jack Begg contributed research.


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