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Initial report released on helicopter crash that killed 6

Updated February 24, 2024 - 3:50 pm

A preliminary report for a helicopter crash southwest of Las Vegas that killed all six people aboard has been issued by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The report does not provide information about the cause of the crash, but outlines the timeline, flight details and weather conditions for the Airbus EC130B4 that crashed about 80 miles southwest of Las Vegas near Halloran Springs, California, adjacent to Interstate 15.

Four charter passengers and two pilots were killed when the Orbic Air LLC jet helicopter crashed about 10:07 p.m. Feb. 9 at an altitude about 3,360 feet during a flight from Palm Springs International Airport to Boulder City Municipal Airport.

Snow and rain appear to have been significant weather factors for the flight that “tracked east-southeast, gradually descended in altitude, and increased in ground speed.”

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.

“According to law enforcement, several witnesses who were traveling in vehicles on I-15, called 911 to report observing a “fireball” to the south,” states the report. “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 11:46 p.m.

The report is preliminary and subject to change.

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 I-15. Bamofin Abimbola Ogunbanjo, former chair of the Nigerian stock exchange, was also killed.

Officials said the pilots — Benjamin Pettingill, 25, and Blake Hansen, 22 — also died in the crash.

The helicopter left Palm Springs Airport around 8:45 p.m. on Friday and was traveling to Boulder City, Nevada, officials 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.

Contact Marvin Clemons at mclemons@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VegasMarvRJ on X.

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