CEO of Nigeria's biggest bank dies in US helicopter crash

The late Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe. PHOTO | COURTESY  

What you need to know:

  • Access Bank Group CEO Herbert Wigwe was killed when the aircraft crashed in California on Friday

Abuja. The co-founder of Nigeria's biggest bank has died in a helicopter crash in the United States along with his wife and son, his company said on Sunday.

Access Bank Group CEO Herbert Wigwe was killed when the aircraft crashed in California on Friday, Access Holdings said in a statement.

"Dr Wigwe died alongside his wife and son on Friday, February 9, 2024 in a helicopter accident in the United States," it said. "The entire Access family mourns the loss of Herbert, Doreen and Chizi."

US authorities said two crew members and four passengers were killed in the crash. The head of the World Trade Organization said former Nigeria Stock Exchange president Abimbola Ogunbanjo was among the dead.

"A Eurocopter EC 130 helicopter crashed near Nipton, California, around 10 pm local time on Friday, Feb. 9. Six people were on board," the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on its website, without naming the victims.

The FAA said there would be an investigation.

World Trade Organization director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said on social media she was "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."

Nigeria's Aviation Minister Festus Keyamo said the news was "devastating".

"I am also shocked to learn his wife, son and other friends were involved in this tragedy," he said.

Access is Nigeria's biggest bank by assets, according to Bloomberg.

The bank praised Wigwe, who became deputy managing director in 2002, as 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".

US National Transportation Safety Board member Michael Graham told a press briefing on Saturday that the helicopter had departed from Palm Springs, California on Friday evening on the way to Boulder City, Nevada.

About 90 minutes after the charter flight took off, "the helicopter impacted the terrain south of I-15 near Halloran Springs, California," about 75 miles (120 kilometres) northeast of the city of Barstow, Graham told reporters.

"Two crew members and four passengers were on board and were fatally injured," he said, without naming the dead.