Wigwe’s helicopter was seen as ‘fireball’ before crash, preliminary report says

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Herbert wigwe

The helicopter conveying the late Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings Plc, Herbert Wigwe and others was seen by several witnesses in vehicles who reported it as a “fireball” before its eventual crash.

This was disclosed by the US National Transportation Safety Board in the preliminary report it published on Saturday morning.

Wigwe, his wife, son the former Group Chairman of Nigerian Exchange Group Plc (NGX Group), Abimbola Ogunbanjo, were all in the Airbus Helicopters EC 130B4 with registration number N130CZ which crashed near Halloran Springs, California on February 9, 2024.

All six people onboard including the pilot and co-pilot have been confirmed dead.

According to the NTSB, the witnesses reported that the weather on the fateful day of the helicopter crash was a mix of rain and snow.

It also stated that the automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) technology built in the helicopter that provides the position of an aircraft, recorded an increase in ground speed before the crash.

“The accident flight departed Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) at 2045 under visual flight rules and flew a northwesterly heading for about 2 miles before following US Highway 111 to Interstate (I) 10 at altitudes varying between 2,500 – 3,000 ft mean sea level (msl),” the report read in part.

“The helicopter continued along I-10, crossed over San Bernadino International Airport, San Bernadino, California, and then followed I-215 to I-15.

“The helicopter followed I-15 toward the planned destination of Boulder City Municipal Airport (BVU), Boulder City, Nevada, climbed between 4,000 – 5,500 ft msl, then descended to about 3,500 ft msl near Barstow, California, where the ADS-B track data was lost about 2146, likely due to terrain interference.

“ADS-B data resumed at 2207 near the Halloran Springs/I-15 exit west of the accident location. The last ADS-B data points for the flight tracked east-southeast, gradually descended in altitude, and increased in ground speed (see Figures 1 and 2).

“The accident site was located 0.31 miles east-southeast of the last data point at an elevation of about 3,360 ft msl.

“According to law enforcement, several witnesses who were traveling in vehicles on I-15, called 911 to report observing a ‘fireball’ to the south.

“The witnesses reported the weather conditions in the area were “not good” and raining with a snow mix. The accident site was located by law enforcement at 2346.”

The NTSB further stated that “wreckage was located in high mountainous desert and scrub brush covered terrain, and debris were scattered about 300 ft along a 120° magnetic heading from the initial impact point”.

“All major helicopter components were identified at the accident site. The fuselage was fragmented, and the cockpit and cabin were destroyed. Some debris and vegetation displayed thermal damage.

“The flight control tubes and linkages leading up to the flight control servos
were fragmented and continuity could not be verified.

“All three pitch control links were attached at the swashplate and blade pitch change horns. The main rotor blades were fragmented and broomstrawed, and the blade sleeves and tips were present,” the report indicated.