CEO of major Nigerian bank killed in California helicopter crash, director-general of WTO says

2024-02-11 02:28:30

MoneyControl

Nigeria bank CEO, wife, son died in Calif. helicopter crash near Interstate 15 in Mojave Desert on Friday.

The CEO of one of Nigeria 's largest banks was killed Friday along with his wife and son when a helicopter they were riding in crashed near Interstate 15 in Southern California's Mojave Desert.

Herbert Wigwe, chief executive of Access Bank, was among the six people on board when the aircraft went down shortly after 10 p.m. Bamofin Abimbola Ogunbanjo, former chair of NGX Group, the Nigerian stock exchange, was also killed.

Their deaths were confirmed Saturday by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian finance minister who is now the director-general of the World Trade Organization.

"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," Okonjo-Iweala wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. "May the souls of the departed rest in perfect peace."

The death of Wigwe, 57, shocked many in Nigeria and in the banking sector. He was widely seen as an industry leader, having been involved in two of the country's biggest banks, including Guaranty Trust Bank, where he was previously executive director.

Under Wigwe's leadership, Access Bank's assets and presence grew beyond borders in several African countries.

His death is "a terrible blow" for Nigeria and Africa's banking industry, Nigerian presidential spokesman Bayo Onanuga 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," Onanuga added.

Wigwe's interests also spanned the education sector. His private university, founded in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta region where he was from, is scheduled to open in September. Last year he said the university was "an opportunity for me to give back to society."

"This is surreal and I am lost for words," Festus Keyamo, Nigeria's minister of aviation and aerospace development, wrote in a post on X. "May Almighty God comfort his aged parents and sibling ... his immediate family members, his staff, friends across Nigeria and dependents."

The crash happened east of I-15 near Halloran Springs Road and not far from the California-Nevada border. Halloran Springs Road crosses the highway in an area known to travelers for an abandoned gas station with a sign declaring "Lo Gas" and "Eat."

It's a remote area of the desert, with an elevation of nearly 3,000 feet (914.40 meters), and about a 60- to 80-mile (100- to 130-kilometer) drive from Las Vegas. Logs from the California Highway Patrol show there was rain and snow in the area around the time of the crash.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department would not confirm that anyone had died or how many people were on the helicopter, but it said in an emailed statement that it had located no survivors and that coroner's investigators were on the scene.

The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed the helicopter, a Eurocopter EC 120, had six people aboard. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB said investigators would arrive Saturday and begin gathering information.

KABC-TV reported that the helicopter took off from Palm Springs Airport around 8:45 p.m. and was en route to Boulder City, Nevada. Boulder City is about 26 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of Las Vegas, where the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers are set to play in Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday.

The crash came just three days after a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter went down in the mountains outside San Diego during historic downpours, killing five Marines.

2024-02-11 News