United States authorities have travelled the cause of a helicopter crash which led to the death of Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, wife, son and others.
According to Michael Graham, a member of the US National Transportation Safety Board, while speaking during a media briefing on Saturday night (3am Nigerian time, Sunday), disclosed that preliminary reports suggest that a wintry weather condition was among the factors that contributed to the chopper crash that killed Wigwe.
Wigwe, his wife and son were onboard the helicopter when it crashed in California near the Nevada border on Friday, February 9, 2024.
Also on board was the former group chairperson of Nigerian Exchange Group Plc, Abimbola Ogunbanjo.
Graham said officials were on the scene to gather perishable evidence, adding that the team was “methodically and systematically reviewing all evidence” and considering all potential factors to determine the probable cause of the crash.
He noted that although the information provided was only preliminary, witness reports suggested that a wintry weather condition was among the factors that contributed to the accident.
His words, “The crew consisted of a pilot in command and a safety pilot. The accident flight was operated by Orbic Air LLC as a Part 135 charter flight.
“Witness reports of the weather conditions at the time of the accident suggest rain and a wintry mix.
“The helicopter was not equipped with a cockpit voice recorder or a flight data recorder.
“This helicopter was not required to be equipped with those types of recording devices.”
Fielding a question, Graham said there were no details about list of passengers, but added that “any names will be released through the coroner’s office” without specifying a time frame.
Graham added that the NTSB would look into the chopper’s airworthiness; maintenance and structure of the helicopter, operations, meteorology, and air traffic control.
“Parties to the investigation include the FAA and Orbic Air LLC. As the investigation continues, other parties could be named.”
“The BEA – the French aviation accident investigation agency – will serve as an accredited representative because France is a state of the manufacturer of the Airbus helicopter and the Turbomeca engine”, he said.
According to media report, Nr. Faleye Olushola, Wigwe’s Special Assistant escaped death by the whiskers.
Media reports indicated that Olushola flew with Wigwe, his wife, son and Ogunbanjo from London, United Kingdom to Palm Spring, a city in California, US.
However, on getting to Palm Spring, Olushola declined to board the ill-fated flight going to Boulder City in Nevada, insisting that he would not travel by helicopter at night due to weather conditions.
He was said to have opted to travel to Boulder City by road and escaped the air disaster that claimed the lives of his boss and four others.
The ill-fated aircraft was operated by California-based charter company Orbic Air, took off around 8:45 p.m. and crashed just after 10 p.m. near Interstate 15 in Halloran Springs, California, Graham said.
The aircraft was flying from Palm Springs, California, to Boulder City, Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas, according Graham, a National Transportation Safety Board member.