How Helicopter Carrying Wigwe Crashed, US Gov’t Gives Graphic Account In Interim Report

The Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) said it has received a preliminary report from the United States’ National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on the accident involving Airbus Helicopter EC130B4 that crashed and killed the former Access Holdings Group Chief Executive Officer, Herbert Wigwe.

Wigwe’s wife Doreen, son Chizi and former chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group (NGX), Mr Abimbola Ogunbanjo, and two pilots were travelling on February 9, 2024, near Halloran Springs, California, United States, before the crash happened.

The NSIB in a statement by its Director, Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, Bimbo Olawumi Oladeji, said the NTSB gave a graphic account of the accident, explaining that the initial findings suggesting that the helicopter suffered catastrophic damage upon impact, resulting in fragmentation of its major components.

The NSIB, in the statement, stated that the prerogative granted by the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, has the right to access investigation information on aviation accidents and incidents involving Nigerian-registered aircraft or Nigerian citizens in 193 countries that are member-states of the ICAO.

Therefore, the NSIB noted that it was actively engaging with the NTSB since the beginning of the investigation.

“As the lead agency, the NTSB has shared the preliminary report, which provides valuable information regarding the flight path, accident scene, and initial findings on the wreckage examination. In the preliminary report shared by the NTSB, it was revealed that NSIB investigators, in collaboration with other relevant authorities and stakeholders such as David Gerlach FAA, Steve GouldOrbic Air LLC, Vincent EcalleBureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses, Seth Buttner; Airbus Helicopters, Bryan Larimore; Safran Group have conducted on-site examinations and analysis of available data to determine the factors contributing to the accident.

“Initial findings suggest that the helicopter suffered catastrophic damage upon impact, resulting in fragmentation of major components.

“However, during the flight, adverse weather conditions characterised by rain and a mix of snow, were encountered, as reported by witnesses, hinting that reports from law enforcement and eyewitnesses also indicated that several individuals travelling along Interstate 15 (I-15) observed a ‘fireball’ in the area, prompting calls to emergency services.

“The report also noted that subsequently, the wreckage of the helicopter was discovered in the high, mountainous desert and scrub-brush-covered terrain near Halloran Springs, California.

“Analysis of the accident site revealed a scattered debris pattern about 300 ft along a 120° magnetic, indicating a trajectory from an initial impact point which was a 1.5 ft deep, 12 ft long and 10 ft wide ground crater, containing fragments of the right landing gear skid, cockpit wiring, and cabin floor structure.

“The right skid step protruded upward at a 45° angle at the extreme eastern edge of the ground crater. According to the report, all major helicopter components were identified at the accident site, the helicopter’s fuselage was fragmented, and the cockpit and cabin were destroyed.

“Some debris and vegetation displayed thermal damage, indicative of the extent of the collision’s force. 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 swash plate and blade pitch change horns. The main rotor blades were fragmented and broom strawed, and the blade sleeves and tips were present. Data analysis utilised sources including automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) data, operator personnel reports, and eyewitness accounts to reconstruct the flight path and sequence of events leading to the accident,” the NSIB spokesman stated.

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