February 14, 2024

USA: Co-Founder, CEO Of Access Bank Largest Bank In Nigeria And Former President Of The Nigeria Stock Exchange Died In California Helicopter Crash With 4 Others On Their Way To The Superb Owl.

KTLA5 News published February 11, 2024: Nigerian banker, family were on way to Super Bowl when helicopter crashed in San Bernardino County. After news broke of a deadly helicopter crash claiming the lives of a prominent Nigerian banker, his wife and son and the former chair of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, tributes came pouring in from across the financial world. Friends of the victims say that they were en route to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday. KTLA 5's Annie Rose Ramos reports.
Mercury News
written by Staff, Bloomberg, AP, and LA Daily News
Monday February 12, 2024

A charter helicopter carrying six people, including the co-founder of Nigeria’s biggest bank by assets, crashed in a Southern California desert area near the Mojave National Preserve, authorities and family members said. Everyone aboard the aircraft died.

Herbert Wigwe, 57, co-founder of Access Bank, was among the victims, family members from his home village of Isiokpo said.

Abimbola Ogunbanjo, who was president of the National Council of the Nigeria Stock Exchange from 2017 to 2021, and served as the group chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc from 2021 to 2022, also was confirmed dead by a family member in Lagos.

Authorities said an Airbus EC130 helicopter crashed at about 10:08 p.m. on Friday with six people on board. The scene of the crash was determined to be east of the 15 Freeway, near Halloran Springs Road, the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department said on Saturday. The department later said all aboard died.

“The identities of the deceased will be released once positive identification has been made and next of kin notifications have been made,” a sheriff’s statement said.

The National Transportation Board, which was investigating on scene, said those aboard were a pilot, a secondary safety pilot and four passengers.

The helicopter went down near Baker, a town of 700 people about 95 miles southwest of Las Vegas, said Peter Knudson, a spokesperson for the NTSB.

The aircraft took off from Palm Springs Airport around 8:45 p.m. and was en route to Boulder City, Nevada, authorities said.

Logs from the California Highway Patrol show there was rain and snow in the area at about the time of the crash.

Witnesses also reported that it was raining with a “wintry mix” at the time of the crash, according to NTSB board member Michael Graham. People also reported a fire on the helicopter when it hit the ground plus some downed power lines.

The aircraft did not have a cockpit voice recorder or a flight data recorder and was not required to have them, he added.

The helicopter was flying a charter flight operated by Orbic Air LLC of Burbank. Several people traveling the 15 Freeway witnessed the crash and called 911, Graham said, and he urged them to contact the NTSB with more details, including photos and video. The agency can be contacted at witness@ntsb.gov

Graham said French investigators will be involved in the probe, as the helicopter was manufactured in France.

The NTSB investigation crew will travel to the scene on Sunday to collect and examine evidence, and to map the site.

“This is the beginning of a long process,” Graham said. “We will not jump to any conclusions.”

Graham said that the full NTSB investigation could last up to two years.

Halloran Springs Road crosses over the 15 Freeway in an area known to travelers for an abandoned gas station with a sign declaring “Lo Gas” and “Eat.” It’s located in a remote area of the Mojave Desert, with an elevation of nearly 3,000 feet

The crash comes less than a week after a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter crashed in the mountains outside San Diego on Tuesday during historic downpours. Five Marines were killed. Boulder City is about 26 miles southeast of Las Vegas, where the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers are set to play in Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday.

On his X account, Wigwe posted in January: “Today and always, let us remember that life is a precious gift – a chance to breathe, feel, love, experience and connect. Let’s honor this gift by living with purpose, kindness, and gratitude, making every moment count … Let us number our days.”

Wigwe started his professional career with Coopers & Lybrand Associates, an international firm of chartered accountants, before spending a decade at Guaranty Trust Bank. In 2004 he co-engineered the acquisition of local lender Access Bank where he assumed the post of deputy managing director and eventually became chief executive officer in January 2014.

He was building a new $500 million university outside the southern city of Port Harcourt to help students hone skills needed for the finance and technology industries in Africa’s most-populous nation, he told Bloomberg in an interview in November. Wigwe planned to teach and mentor students and also engage some of the country’s biggest entrepreneurs including billionaire Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, to teach at the university.

“To get the next set of leaders in banking, you need to create the right education for them,” Wigwe told Bloomberg from his office in the 14-story Access Bank headquarters overlooking a part of the Lagos lagoon.

Ogunbanjo started his professional career as a banker with Chase Manhattan Bank Nigeria in 1985 before he re-qualified as a legal practitioner and joined the law firm of Chris Ogunbanjo & Co in 1990, where he held the position of managing partner until his death, according to a biography from his firm.

He joined the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 2011 and served in various capacities.
ABC7 pubilshed February 11, 2024: Nigerian bank CEO and family among 6 killed in helicopter crash in San Bernardino County. The CEO of one of Nigeria's largest banks, along with his wife and son, was among six people killed when a helicopter they were riding in crashed near Baker in San Bernardino County.

San Bernardino Sun
written by The Associated Press
Sunday February 11, 2024

Nigerian leaders Sunday mourned the death of the CEO of one of the country’s largest banks after he and five others were killed Friday in a helicopter crash in Southern California’s Mojave Desert.

Herbert Wigwe, chief executive of Access Bank, and his wife and son were among the six people on board when the aircraft went down shortly after 10 p.m. near Interstate 15. All six people were killed, including two pilots and Bamofin Abimbola Ogunbanjo, former chair of NGX Group, the Nigerian stock exchange.Nigeria’s president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, grieved the deaths in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Their passing is an overwhelming tragedy that is shocking beyond comprehension,” he wrote. “I pray for the peaceful repose of the departed and ask God Almighty to comfort the multitude of Nigerians who are grieving and the families of the deceased at this deeply agonizing moment.”

The death of Wigwe, 57; his wife, Chizoba; and son, Chizi, 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.

“Dr. Wigwe was a key driving force and a larger-than-life personality who brought his remarkable passion, energy and experience to the transformation of the Access franchise,” Sunday Ekwochi, group company secretary of parent company Access Holdings, said Sunday in a statement.

The bank, in a post on X, wrote that Wigwe’s “passion and unwavering commitment to excellence transformed Access into a global powerhouse.”

“His legacy of excellence and compassion will continue to inspire us all,” the statement said.

Wigwe’s 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 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.”

The crash happened south of I-15 near Halloran Springs Road, about 75 miles (120 km) northeast of Barstow, according to Michael Graham of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash.

Graham said Saturday that he did not have information about the two crew members, a pilot and a safety pilot. The aircraft did not have a cockpit voice recorder or a flight data recorder and was not required to have them, he added.

The Airbus EC-130 left Palm Springs Airport at around 8:45 p.m. on Friday and was traveling to Boulder City, Nevada, Graham said. 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 58 on Sunday.

Flight-tracking data shows the helicopter was traveling along the interstate about 1,000 to 1,500 feet (304.80 to 457.20 meters) above ground level, Graham said during a Sunday news conference. The aircraft made a slight right turn, turning south of the roadway, and the data then shows a gradual descent and increasing ground speed.

The wreckage site shows that helicopter hit the ground with its nose low at a right-bank angle, Graham said, adding that meteorologists have confirmed the weather included precipitation. The debris field was about 100 yards (91.44 meters) long. All parts of the helicopter were accounted for, Graham said.

Commercial airline pilot Robert Katz said he believes the crash could have been weather related if the helicopter was flying too low due to the conditions and diminished visibility.

Katz, who has 43 years of aviation experience, emphasized the danger of pilots flying into weather they’re not prepared for. Based off of the current available information, he believes the helicopter pilot may have flown into something and crashed, as flight data from SkyVector showed a sharp rise in terrain near the crash site.

The flight was a charter operated by Orbic Air LLC. Several people traveling on I-15 witnessed the crash and called 911, Graham said.

Witnesses reported that it was raining with a “wintry mix” at the time of the crash, according to Graham. People also reported a fire on the helicopter as it hit the ground plus some downed power lines.

“This is the beginning of a long process. We will not jump to any conclusions,” Graham said Saturday.

Investigators on Sunday began mapping the area with drones and documenting the wreckage. They are also gathering pilot and maintenance records. A preliminary report is expected to be released within 30 days, though a full investigation will take up to two years to complete.

The crash site is 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-km) drive from Las Vegas.

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.

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