Antelope Valley Press

Weather could have caused helicopter crash

- By STEFANIE DAZIO

LOS ANGELES — Two aviation experts who reviewed newly released photos and video of Friday’s helicopter crash that killed a prominent Nigerian banker and five others said the flight likely should have been canceled because of poor nighttime weather conditions in Southern California’s Mojave Desert.

The National Transporta­tion Safety Board released photos and video of the mangled wreckage this week as its investigat­ors continue to look into what caused the crash. The agency’s preliminar­y investigat­ion report will be released in the coming weeks.

Weather reports from the time show a mix of rain and snow, and the aircraft flew over a remote area of the desert that likely would have had few lights for the pilot to navigate by, other than cars’ headlights and taillights along the interstate.

“If I were in charge, I certainly would have said ‘No, thank you,’” aviation safety consultant and retired Marine Corps Col. Pete Field told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Herbert Wigwe, chief executive of Access Bank, and his wife and 29-year-old son were among those aboard the helicopter when it crashed shortly after 10 p.m. near Interstate 15. Bamofin Abimbola Ogunbanjo, former chair of the Nigerian stock exchange, was also killed.

Their deaths shocked many in Nigeria and in the banking sector.

Officials said the pilots — Benjamin Pettingill, 25, and Blake Hansen, 22 — also died in the crash. A member of Hansen’s family said they were grieving Wednesday and declined to comment.

The helicopter left Palm Springs Airport around 8:45 p.m. on Friday and was traveling to Boulder City, Nev., Graham said. Boulder City is about 26 miles southeast of Las Vegas, where the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 58 on Sunday. Wigwe’s destinatio­n after the plane landed has not been confirmed.

The charter company, Orbic Air LLC, declined to comment Wednesday.

Flight-tracking data shows the helicopter was following the interstate until it made a slight right turn, turning south of the roadway, according to the NTSB. The data then shows a gradual descent and increasing ground speed.

The wreckage site, with a debris field about 100 yards long, shows that helicopter hit the ground with its nose low at a right-bank angle, the NTSB said. Witnesses reported a fire on the helicopter, as well as downed power lines, the NTSB said.

Clipping the power lines, which may have been hard for the pilot to see in the dark, could have caused the crash, said Al Diehl, a former NTSB investigat­or.

“In a matter of seconds, you can get disoriente­d,” he said.

Authoritie­s have said there was a pilot and a safety pilot, but not who was serving in which role. Both were licensed as commercial helicopter pilots as well as flight instructor­s. The Airbus EC130 only has controls for a single pilot.

 ?? ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? NTSB investigat­ors survey the site of an Airbus Helicopter­s EC-130 on Sunday near Halloran Springs, Calif. The crash in the Mojave Desert killed, Herbert Wigwe, CEO of one of Nigeria’s largest banks along with his wife and son.
ASSOCIATED PRESS NTSB investigat­ors survey the site of an Airbus Helicopter­s EC-130 on Sunday near Halloran Springs, Calif. The crash in the Mojave Desert killed, Herbert Wigwe, CEO of one of Nigeria’s largest banks along with his wife and son.

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