Access Bank loses former GMD/CEO, Herbert Wigwe, wife, son in helicopter crash

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The former group managing director and chief executive officer of Access Bank Plc, Mr Herbert Wigwe, his wife Chizoba, his son, and a former President of Nigeria Exchange Group, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, died in a helicopter accident in California, United States on Friday.

It was gathered that Wigwe who, until his death, was the group chief executive officer of Access Holdings, boarded the chopper, identified as a Eurocopter EC 130, headed to Las Vegas when it crashed near Nipton, between Nevada and California.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in a statement confirmed that all onboard were dead.

The FAA said no survivors had been found as of yesterday.

According to the report, “officials at the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department were made aware of the downed aircraft at 10:12 p.m. local time, a public information officer with the department” Mara Rodriguez, said in a statement, adding that the scene of the crash was determined to be east of Interstate 15, near Halloran Springs Road.

Addressing the media, the board member of NTSB, Michael Graham disclosed that the Airbus, EC130 helicopter departed Palm Springs, California en route to Boulder in Nevada at 8.45 pm on Friday.

“At about 10.8pm, the helicopter impacted Halloran Springs, California.  Halloran Springs is about 75 miles northeast Boston. Two crew members and four passengers were aboard and were fatally injured,” Graham explained.

“This is the beginning of a long process; we will not jump into any conclusion, and the information that I provide for you tonight is preliminary. A preliminary report will be available in a couple of weeks and however, a full NTSB investigation will be made and investigations will last between 24 months before the final report is published.

“Additional details about the accident include: the crew consisted of a pilot -in- command and a safety pilot; the accident flight was operated by Woebeck Air LSC, as a charter flight. Witness reports of the weather conditions at the time of the flight suggest rain and a wintery mist. The helicopter was not equipped with a voice recorder or a data recorder. This helicopter was not required to be equipped with those kinds of devices.

“We are aware of media reports of down power lines near the accident site; we will be looking into this report during our on-the-scene investigative phase of this investigation. Several NTSB investigators will be examining the following areas: airworthiness to include maintenance instructions of the helicopter, operations, meteorology and aero traffic control,” he said.

He expressed NTSB’s deepest sympathy to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives in the terrible tragedy.

Meanwhile, Access Holdings said it does not have adequate information about the crash and was collaborating with the US authorities to get the updates.

“We have received numerous inquiries concerning an airplane crash in the USA.

“Presently, we lack specific information; however, we are actively collaborating with US authorities who will furnish updates.

“Your understanding and support are valued, and we commit to keeping you informed promptly as we receive updates on the situation,” it said in a statement.

Reacting to the tragic incident, French president, Mr Emmanuel Macron said he “has lost a friend.”

In his condolence message, the president too t his X and wrote: “France has lost a friend, Herbert Wigwe, President of the French Nigeria Business Council. A humanistic and talented entrepreneur. He tirelessly worked to strengthen the relationship between our two countries. Our heartfelt thoughts go to his family and loved ones.”

In her post on X, the managing director of the World Trade Oragnisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said she was “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,” she added.

Similarly, the governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki, condoled with the family of the deceased, describing the tragic incident as “painful and heart wrenching.’

“The news of the passing of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Access Bank Holdings, Dr. Herbert Wigwe, who died in a helicopter crash in the United States of America, has left me extremely shocked and devastated.

“We also unfortunately lost Wigwe’s wife and son as well as the former group chairman of Nigeria Stock Exchange, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, in the crash.

“The tragic incident is painful and heart wrenching and we pray for God’s abiding comfort in this profoundly difficult time.

“Wigwe was a colossus in Nigeria’s financial sector, leading Access Bank to become an international brand that placed Nigeria on the global map of first class financial services.

“I commiserate with the Wigwe Family, the Ogunbanjo Family, Access Bank Holding, the Nigeria Stock Exchange, friends and associates and pray that God will grant all the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss,” Obaseki said in a statement.