Flying Wigwe, others in bad weather wrong – US aviation lawyer

EX CEO, Access Bank Plc, Herbert Wigwe

A United States of America aviation lawyer, Robert Clifford, has said the tragic helicopter crash that claimed the lives of the Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings, Herbert Wigwe, and other prominent Nigerians in California on Friday could have been averted.

Clifford, who is the Founder and Senior Partner of Clifford Law Offices in Chicago, disclosed this in a press statement posted on the company’s website on Wednesday.

Wigwe, his wife Doreen, his son Chizi, and a former Group Chairman of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Abimola Ogunbanjo, lost their lives in a fatal crash

The Airbus Helicopter EC130B4, carrying six occupants, including two crew members, crashed at a border town between California and Nevada.

Clifford’s statement came amid an ongoing investigation of the chopper crash by the US National Transportation Safety Board.

Already, investigators from the agency have transferred the aircraft wreckage to another location in the US for comprehensive laboratory examination and analysis.

The preliminary report of the crash is expected to be ready in four weeks, according to NTSB.

The statement, posted on Clifford Law Offices website read in part, “The crash of a helicopter that killed six people including a top Nigerian banker and his family along the California-Nevada border Saturday night immediately strikes one as a tragedy that may have been avoided given the known weather conditions at that time.”

Clifford was the Lead Counsel in the crash of a Boeing 737 MAX8 plane in Ethiopia which killed all the 157 souls on board from 35 countries on March 10, 2019.

The US attorney, who claimed to have also represented victims of many helicopter crashes questioned the decision of the pilots and others to allegedly take off in what was described as difficult weather conditions.

There were media reports that during the crash at 10pm on Friday, residents of the area reported rain and wintry weather conditions.

However, Clifford expressed hopes that the US National Transportation Safety Board would unravel if the crash was avoidable or not after its ongoing investigations.

“The National Transportation Safety Board investigators will thoroughly examine all aspects of what led up to the crash and ultimately will use their expertise to determine the probable cause of this crash to see if it was avoidable,” Clifford said.

He added, “It is always a horrific tragedy when innocent lives are lost in an aviation disaster.”

The NTBS has commenced an investigation, gathering crucial company information, including pilot records, flight dispatch records, and aircraft maintenance records.

The US agency had disclosed plans to transfer the wreckage to a secure location on Tuesday for an in-depth examination and analysis scheduled. However, the NTBS has yet to communicate what it found out from the examination.

While a preliminary report on the crash is expected to be released within four weeks, in March, a full NTSB investigation will last 12 to 24 months before the final report is issued.

Earlier in a press conference on Sunday, the NTSB revealed that witnesses reported “wintry mix” weather conditions, including rain, at the time of the crash.

A Board Member, NTSB, Michael Graham stated, “We currently have a meteorologist working on our team and we were working to analyse and get the exact weather conditions at that time.

“Of course, that’s out in the middle of the desert so we’ll have to find the closest reporting stations nearby to be able to give any accurate report,” he said.

The PUNCH reported that investigators mentioned that the helicopter was not equipped with a cockpit voice recorder or a flight data recorder, even though the aircraft was not required to have it, according to Graham.

Meanwhile, the NTSB in a statement on Wednesday urged the Federal Aviation Administration to mandate the retrofitting of all existing airplanes equipped with a cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder.

This call for action by the NTSB was in response to the Alaska Airlines accident on January 5, 2024, where crucial data was overwritten.

The proposed upgrade involves enhancing these devices to record 25 hours of audio, a significant increase from the current standard of two hours.

Since 2018, at least 14 NTSB investigations have been hampered because cockpit voice recorder, or CVR, data were overwritten, including seven serious runway incursions that occurred in early 2023.

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said “In the recent Alaska Airlines door plug blowout accident, our investigators don’t have the CVR audio to fully understand all of the challenges the flight crew faced in response to the emergency.

“Any investigation in which the CVR audio is overwritten and unavailable to us means that we may miss opportunities to address safety issues identified on recordings. And that’s unacceptable.”

Adeboye, Sanwo-Olu, others

Meanwhile, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church, Enoch Adeboye, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, visited the residence of Herbert Wigwe’s parents in Lagos on Wednesday.

 Adeboye got to the Wigwe’s company shortly after Sanwo-Olu. Both of them met the elderly parents of the late Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings Plc, Wigwe.

Seen at the family house of the Wigwes were Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, the former Group Managing Director of Access Bank, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, who are both repeat visitors.

Others were the founder of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank Plc), Mr. Fola Adeola, and Chairman of Access Bank Plc. and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association Mr. Paul Usoro.

Speaking on the late Access Holdings GCEO, a former Minister of Health, Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi said, “Herbert was one of our children, and we say to ourselves in him, a star was born, and that star developed into a gem. And now we are witnessing a situation that the star that was born that has turned into a gem  that is gone.

“It needs a lots of careful patience to be able to cope. It’s a big tragedy. We don’t know the way of God, there is nothing that he does that is not for the good of mankind. So we say, may his soul rest in peace.”

Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Lamido Yuguda, in his comments said, “We pray for the soul of the departed. May God comfort all those left behind.”

Speaking, Mr. Norrison Quakers SAN described Wigwe as tenacious goal-getter, who was committed to the work of God.

He said, “Herbert was hospitable, unpretentious, and one who made sure that his wealth went round. He was tenacious, purposeful, determined, and a goal getter. Did he achieve all that he set out to achieve? Well, one can say, with the short life that he had lived, one can say that a lots of the goals that he set for himself, he was able to achieve them.

“He has impacted lives. And you can see the number of people who have come around and the compliments, messages that the family has been getting. It shows the kind of person he was while he was yet alive. This is a lesson for many of us. That while you are alive, make use of the talent that God has given to you and also your resources.”

Also, a former Super Eagles goalkeeper, Idah Peterside, wrote in the condolence register, “Chie Herbert, Na so?”

The first female Chief Judge of the federal Court, Justice Rose Ukeje said “Dear lord you know it all. Nothing happens without your consent. Please Lord comfort Pa Pastor Wigwe and lady Stella. We commit them to your care, may your abiding grace see them through this tragedy. We pray and we believe thou will grant our prayer. Amen.”

A former Minister of Petroleum Resources and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress  in Akwa lbom state, Don Etiebet wrote “May the soul of my friend, wife and son rest in perfect peace. I shall miss you Herbert.”

SOURCE:PUNCH

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