• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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Wigwe’s PA recounts how luggage stopped him from joining ill-fated chopper


Sola Faleye, the personal assistant to the late group managing director and chief executive officer of Access Corporation, Herbert Wigwe, has recounted how he narrowly escaped the tragic chopper crash that claimed the lives of his boss, wife, son, and business associate, Abimbola Ogunbanjo.

Faleye narrated the sorrowful incident at the Night of Tribute held in Lagos on Wednesday in honour of the late banking mogul.

He said he initially planned to travel by helicopter but reconsidered his stand, opting to travel to Vegas by road with the luggage. At the same time, Wigwe, his wife, son, and Ogunbajo took the chopper to the same destination.

Faleye said: “It was a sweet journey. We flew 11 hours from London. I remember in the middle of the air, I walked up to him and said, ‘Sir, how comfortable are you at night flying choppers? I’ve never done it before. He said this is America, they have a navigation system for flying choppers at night and I went back to my seat. (When) we landed, everybody was filled with joy that we were finally almost there.

“We sat, waiting to be cleared by immigration. (After concluding that process, we came out to see two vans waiting). One was taking us to go aboard the chopper. The other one took our luggage because they could not go on the chopper. Throughout my years of working with him, I’ve always told myself that flying that way is not a luxury for me. I am on duty. And as they were loading the luggage, this thought came to mind.

He said he decided to go with the van carrying the luggage even though a road trip would last over three hours instead of joining Wigwe on the chopper which would have taken an hour.

Faleye said he would have still had to wait till the luggage arrived if he had joined Wigwe and others on the chopper. This helped him make up his mind to go with the van carrying the luggage and he suggested the idea to his boss.

“I walked up to him and said, ‘Sir, I think it’s safer and more secure for me to just ride and bring the luggage to you.’ He said it was a brilliant idea. And I said, “safe flight.”

It would be the last conversation Faleye had with Wigwe.

The chopper carrying Wigwe, his wife, son and Bimbo Ogunbanjo had crashed at 10:08pm, according to Faleye, who said that at 10:09pm he started making calls to confirm the safe arrival of his boss and others on board the chopper.

He called Wigwe’s line but couldn’t get through before he called his wife, Chizoba’s three phone lines which also proved abortive. He called his son Chizi and later Ogunbanjo but failed to get through.

At this point he said he suspected all was not well before he got official confirmation that the chopper had crashed and killed everyone on board.

Faleye broke down in tears as he narrated the events on the day and had to be ushered off stage.

Faleye described his late boss as a “great man.”