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Herbert Wigwe: Helicopter was up in flames before crash, US preliminary report says



Law enforcement and witnesses told the US National Transportation Safety Board that the helicopter carrying late banker Herbert Wigwe and others on February 9 was on fire prior to the crash.

The crash killed Mr Wigwe, his wife and son, as well as Abimbola Ogunbanjo, the former group chairman of Nigerian Exchange Group Plc, and two crew members.

According to an NTSB preliminary investigation report released on Friday, witnesses stated that the weather conditions on the day of the helicopter crash were a mix of rain and snow.

The board noted that the helicopter’s built-in Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology, which tracks aircraft positions, detected an increase in ground speed prior to the crash.

It added witnesses also reported the weather conditions in the area were ‘not good’ and raining with a snow mix.

“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 board said the “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.”

It also said that all the helicopter’s components were identified at the accident site.

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