Nigerian Bank CEO Herbert Wigwe and Family among 6 Killed in US Helicopter Crash

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Nigerian media reported that Wigwe was on his way to Las Vegas to attend Sunday’s Super Bowl when the incident occurred. Investigators are scouring the site in the southern Californian desert to determine the cause of the crash.

The chief executive of Access Bank, one of the largest banks in Nigeria, was among six people killed in a helicopter crash in the Mojave Desert near the California-Nevada border late Friday night, according to a World Trade Organization official.

Herbert Wigwe, his wife, son, and the former group chairman of the Nigeria Stock Exchange, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, were all killed in the crash, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in a post on X/Twitter. Authorities said both of the helicopter’s pilots were also killed.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash and was at the scene in Halloran Springs, California, Saturday night collecting evidence, NTSB Michael Graham said at a news conference.

The chartered Airbus EC130 helicopter was flying from Palm Springs, California, to Boulder City in Nevada, when it went down about 96km (60 miles) from Las Vegas.

The aircraft, operated by California-based charter company Orbic Air, took off around 8:45 p.m. PT and crashed just after 10 p.m. near Interstate 15 in Halloran Springs, Graham said.

The helicopter caught fire upon impact, Graham added, citing witness reports. Witnesses also reported rain and a wintry mix when the crash happened, he said.

Authorities have yet to publicly identify those killed in the crash but tributes have been pouring in for the Wigwe family and Ogunbanjo.

President Bola Tinubu described Wigwe’s death as an “overwhelming tragedy”, saying it was “shocking beyond comprehension”. The president’s office described his death as “a terrible blow” to Nigeria and Africa’s banking industry.

Nigerian media reported that Wigwe was on his way to Las Vegas to attend Sunday’s Super Bowl when the incident occurred.

The 57-year-old banker founded Access Bank in 1989. It became the largest bank in Nigeria in 2018 after it acquired its main competitor, Diamond Bank.

Wigwe had in recent years been working to expand across the continent, acquiring banks in countries including Kenya, South Africa, and Botswana. He was planning to open a new banking service in Asia in the first quarter of 2024.

In a newspaper article last month January, Wigwe said investing in higher education was key to controlling mass migration, which “is destabilising countries across the world”.

With that in mind, he was in the process of starting his own educational institute, Wigwe University. It was set to launch in September in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region, where he was from.