ABUJA, Feb 11 — 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 today.

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.”

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US authorities said two crew members and four passengers were killed.

Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu said former Nigeria Stock Exchange president Abimbola Ogunbanjo was among the dead, calling the crash “an overwhelming tragedy that is shocking beyond comprehension.”

“The President condoles with the Wigwe and Ogunbanjo families, the business community, and all those impacted by this harrowing incident,” his spokesman said in a statement on Sunday.

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The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) 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 said there would be an investigation.

World Trade Organisation 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.”

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 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) north-east 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. — AFP