A United States aviation official, Mr. Michael Graham has said that Dr. Herbert Wigwe, the Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings, died alongside his wife and four others when their chartered Airbus EC130 helicopter caught fire upon impact.

The crash also claimed leading corporate lawyer, Mr. Abimbola Ogunbanjo, the scion of recently deceased Chief Chris Ogunbanjo, the Doyen of Commercial Law practice in Nigeria, CITY LAWYER can report.

The ill-fated Eurocopter EC 130 helicopter crashed near Nipton, California, USA around 10 p.m. local time on Friday. Aside from Wigwe’s Anambra-born wife, Chizoba, their son and two crew members also died in the crash.

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.

It 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.

Citing witness reports, Graham said that the helicopter caught fire upon impact, adding that witnesses also reported rain and a wintry mix when the crash happened.

Confirming the death of its helmsman, Access Bank Plc wrote on its X handle: “Today, we bid farewell to a visionary leader, @HerbertOWigwe, whose passion and unwavering commitment to excellence transformed Access into a global powerhouse.

“His legacy of excellence and compassion will continue to inspire us all.

“Rest in peace, Herbert Wigwe. Your impact will forever be felt.”

CITY LAWYER investigation shows that Ogunbanjo was the Managing Partner at the upscale Lagos law firm, Chris Ogunbanjo LP where he was described as “the Vice Chairman of the Commercial Law and Taxation Committee of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and the President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.”

According to the law firm, “He specializes in Capital Markets and has garnered considerable corporate finance experience.”

Ogunbanjo was the Chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc (“NGX Group” or “The Group”), a leading integrated market infrastructure group in Africa. He is reputed to have led the transformation of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) from a non-profit, member-based organisation into a public limited company, with its shares publicly quoted for all investors to participate in the ownership of the country’s oldest securities exchange.

The conversion of the then NSE, otherwise known as demutualisation, birthed the NGX Group as a non-operating holding group and the separation of the trading and regulatory arms of the Exchange.

A versatile corporate lawyer, Ogunbanjo led the emergent NGX Group in its formative years between 2021 and 2022. He had served as the President of the National Council of the NSE from 2017 to 2021. The late Ogunbanjo was credited with several landmark initiatives at the Exchange, including the launch of West Africa’s first Exchange Traded Derivatives market.

Ogunbanjo was a director on the boards of many companies including Beta Glass Plc, GTL Registrars Limited, AIICO Insurance Plc, ConocoPhillips Limited, Chris Ogunbanjo Foundation and the Advisory Board of the University of Buckingham Centre for Extractive Studies among others.

A registered Nigerian capital market consultant, Ogunbanjo is a member of the International Bar Association, Nigerian Bar Association and Institute of Petroleum.

He is reputed as a philanthropist and dedicated social worker, and was a Global Ambassador for the Cervical Cancer-Free Nigeria (CCFN) campaign, an initiative of the US-based and Standford University supported non-profit organization, Global Oncology (GO).

THE NATION reports that he was conferred with the traditional title of Bamofin of Erunwon Ijebu Kingdom and the national honour of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR).

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

Meanwhile, Faleye Olushola, Wigwe’s Special Assistant reportedly 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 four others.

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