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Ogunbanjo’s Family Sues US Charter Service Company That Operated Fatal Helicopter Crash

Ogunbanjo’s family is suing the helicopter company for funeral expenses and other unspecified damages.

The family of a prominent Nigerian business leader, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, who tragically lost his life in a helicopter crash in Southern California alongside five others in February, has taken legal action by filing a lawsuit on Wednesday.

The lawsuit contends that the flight should have been grounded due to hazardous weather conditions.

Abimbola Ogunbanjo, the former chair of the Nigerian stock exchange, was among those killed in the crash. The lawsuit, filed by Ogunbanjo’s relatives, alleges that the charter company, Orbic Air LLC, negligently flew the helicopter despite adverse weather conditions, including a “wintry mix” of snow and rain in the Mojave Desert where the crash occurred on Feb. 9.

The crash claimed the lives of Ogunbanjo, aged 61, along with Herbrt Wigwe, chief executive of Nigeria’s Access Bank, Wigwe’s wife, and their 29-year-old son.

Additionally, both pilots, Benjamin Pettingill, 25, and Blake Hansen, 22, lost their lives. They were licensed as commercial helicopter pilots and flight instructors.

Andrew C. Robb, one of the attorneys representing the family, emphasised that helicopters are ill-suited for operation in snow and ice, further saying, “This flight was entirely preventable, and we don’t know why they took off.”

Ogunbanjo’s wife and two children filed the suit in San Bernardino County Superior Court against Orbic Air and its CEO, Brady Bowers, alleging wrongful death and negligence. The suit also includes claims against the unidentified successors of Pettingill and Hansen.

Orbic Air has not responded to requests for comment regarding the lawsuit.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continues to investigate the cause of the crash. A preliminary investigation report released in February outlined the helicopter’s flight path and details about the wreckage, which was scattered across 100 yards (91 metres) of desert scrub.

The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and compensation for Ogunbanjo’s burial and funeral expenses, as well as other damages arising from the tragic incident. The NTSB’s final determination on the crash’s cause is still pending.

Further details from the investigation into the helicopter crash revealed that the fuselage was fragmented, and both the cockpit and cabin were destroyed. Damage to the engine and metal deposits found suggested that the engine was operational at the time of the crash.

Law enforcement cited in the report stated that multiple witnesses traveling along Interstate 15 had dialled 911 to report witnessing a “fireball” to the south. Witnesses reported rainy conditions with a mix of snow at the time of the crash.

The ill-fated helicopter departed from Palm Springs Airport around 8:45 p.m. on Feb. 9, en route to Boulder City, Nevada, approximately 26 miles (40 kilometres) southeast of Las Vegas. The flight was scheduled ahead of Super Bowl 58, where the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers were set to compete that Sunday.

As the investigation continues, the lawsuit seeks a jury trial and requests compensation for Abimbola Ogunbanjo’s burial and funeral expenses, along with other damages resulting from the tragic incident.

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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