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Wigwe Helicopter Crash: Chopper Manufacturer Ordered To Pay $75m To Victims’ Family In Separate Incident 

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An American court, in January, had ordered Airbus Helicopter SAS, the manufacturer of the helicopter in which top Nigerian banker Herbert Wigwe was travelling before a fatal crash, to pay the family of a victim of another crash $75 million.

The single engine aircraft and its several variations, which were manufactured by Airbus Helicopters SAS, which was previously known as Eurocopter, have had a rather long and unfortunate history of accidents.

On the 1st of December, three persons were killed when a Mexican Federal Electricity Commission-owned Eurocopter EC 130B4, hit electrical lines during takeoff.

Also, a Eurocopter EC 130B4 had crashed in the Grand Canyon in February 2018, killing the five persons on board, all British.

After crashing, the aircraft caught fire. The pilot said to the US investigators that the chopper began spinning after it ran into a “violent gust of wind.”

Among the deceased were two brothers, Stuart and Jason Hill, ages 30 and 32. Becky Dobson, Stuart Hill’s girlfriend, perished in the collision as well. At the scene, the three were pronounced deceased.

Ellie Udall and her husband Jonathan suffered fatal injuries in the tragic collision, as days later, complications from their burns claimed their lives.

Jennifer Dorricott, Jason Hill’s girlfriend, and pilot Scott Booth both made it out alive, but they suffered life altering injuries.

The NTSB stated that it most likely lost control due to turbulence and tailwinds.

That accident gave rise to a lawsuit, as Jonathan Udall’s parents sued the manufacturer, Airbus Helicopters SAS, and the aircraft’s owner, Papillon Airways Inc. The lawsuit, in January 2024, resulted in a historic $100 million judgement.

According to a Nevada court ruling, Airbus Helicopter was ordered to pay $75 million and Papillon Airways $24.6 million to Udall’s parents.

The lawsuit claimed that the helicopter was unsafe for flight as the lack of a crash-resistant fuel system caused the helicopter to catch fire after crashing. 

A lawyer for the Udalls, speaking to reporters, had said, “The Udall family wants to shine a spotlight on this issue so the industry will take note and voluntarily seek to correct this public health issue.

“They don’t want anyone else to go through what their son went through in an otherwise survivable accident — not a broken bone. He would have walked away.”

Wigwe, who was the group CEO of Access Bank, was travelling with his wife, son and Abimbola Ogunbanjo, a former chair of Nigerian Exchange Group, when the Eurocopter EC 130 chopper they had boarded crashed in Nipton, a community in San Bernardino County in California, United States.

The San Bernardino Sheriff’s office revealed in a statement, “It has been confirmed all six people on board the aircraft are deceased. The identities of the deceased will be released once positive identification has been made and next of kin notifications have been made.”

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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