The Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings Plc, Herbert Wigwe, has reportedly died following the crash of a helicopter conveying him and five others on Friday night near the California-Nevada border in the United States of America.
According to several media reports, others involved in the fatal crash were his wife, Chizoba; his son, and the former Group Chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc, Abimbola Ogunbanjo. Three other yet-to-be-identified crew members also died in the crash.
Confirming the crash on their website, the US Federal Aviation Administration said, “A Eurocopter EC 130 helicopter crashed near Nipton, California, around 10 pm local time on Friday, February 9. Six people were on board.
“The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will provide any updates.”
The agency, however, did not disclose the identities of the victims involved.
The NBC Los Angeles reported that the crashed helicopter was registered to a Burbank-based tour company, Orbic Air. Orbic Air couldn’t be reached for a comment as their contact number was not reachable.
A statement attributed to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department by the New York Times disclosed that, as of Saturday morning, no survivors had been found.
The statement read, “We were made aware of a downed aircraft at approximately 10.12 pm., on February 10, 2024. The scene of the crash was determined to be east of the 15-Freeway, near Halloran Springs Road.”
Meanwhile, the yearly Lagos Marathon sponsored by Access Bank was held on Saturday morning but Wigwe was absent from the event, which was won by a Kenyan, Bernard Sang. The event is in its eighth year.
The Head of Media Relations, Access Holdings, Kunle Aderinokun, did not respond to calls put across to him for confirmation and had yet to respond to WhatsApp messages sent to him as of the time of filing this report.
Aderinokun just resumed at Access Holdings following the death of Abdul Imoyo on December 17, 2023.
The 57-year-old business tycoon in November said that his university would admit students for undergraduate courses this year.
Wigwe had posted on his X handle @HerberOWigwe on January 19, 2024, “Today and always, let us remember that life is a precious gift – a chance to breathe, feel, love, experience and connect.
“Let’s honour this gift by living with purpose, kindness, and gratitude, making every moment count.
“Let us number our days.”
Atiku, Obaseki mourn
Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, and the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, were among those who expressed shock over the tragic death of the Access Holdings Plc boss.
Atiku, in a tweet on his X handle on Saturday night, described the incident as unfortunate.
He wrote, “I’m deeply saddened to hear about the unfortunate incident that led to the loss of Herbert Wigwe, Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings Plc, and his family. Indeed, Herbert Wigwe, consummate banker, education promoter, and philanthropist, numbered his days. On behalf of my family, my heart goes out to their loved ones and everyone affected by this unfortunate incident. May their souls rest in peace.”
Obaseki, on his part, said the death of Wigwe “has left me extremely shocked and devastated.”
In a statement he personally signed, the governor said, “We also unfortunately lost Wigwe’s wife and son, as well as the former Group Chairman of the 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.”
The Director-General, World Trade Organisation, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, posted on her X handle @NOIweala, “Terribly saddened by the news of the terrible loss of Herbert Wigwe, Group CEO Access Bank, his wife and son as well as Bimbo Ogunbanjo in a helicopter crash.
“My deepest sympathies and condolences to the Wigwe family, the Ogunbanjo family, Access Bank Group employees and Management and my younger brother, Herbert’s partner, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede. May the souls of the departed rest in perfect peace.”
Also, former lawmaker, Senator Shehu Sani, described the incident as a great loss, tweeting, “It was sad and heartbreaking; a great loss. May their souls rest in peace.”
On his part, a House of Representatives member, Akin Alabi, described the incident as a national tragedy and heartbreaking.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Joseph Johnson, described the incident as shocking.
“His (Wigwe’s) death is confirmed. It is a big loss to every sector, and not just himself, with his wife and son. It is very painful,” he said.
The Public Affairs Specialist, Office of Communications, FAA Rick Breitenfeldt emailed, “Contact local authorities for the names and medical conditions of the people on board.”
The President of the Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria, Dr. Kingsley Nwokoma, said he was aware of the information regarding Wigwe’s demise.
“This is a big loss. He didn’t die alone, both his wife and son were also involved. It’s quite unfortunate that they had to die this way,” he said on the telephone.
A few months ago, the co-founder of Access Bank disclosed plans to invest $500m in Wigwe University, a strategic initiative aimed at fostering skills crucial for the finance and technology sectors in Nigeria.
- Additional reports: JUSTICE OKAMGBA and DENNIS NAKU
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