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Witnesses describe wintry weather before deadly helicopter crash that killed 6

Witnesses said the weather was poor, describing a wintry weather mix of rain and snow before a Eurocopter E-130-B4 (N130CZ) crashed in the Mojave Desert, killing six people, including the Nigerian CEO of a bank and his wife and son. Many witnesses have also reported seeing a fireball in the area after the crash. RELATED STORY:Nigerian bank CEO among 6 killed in Mojave helicopter crash in deteriorating weatherOn Feb. 9, an Airbus helicopter departed the operator's base at the Bob Hope Airport (BUR) in Burbank, California to reposition for a charter passenger flight. The accident flight left the Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) under visual flight rules, flying a northwesterly heading for about two miles before following U.S. Highway 111 to Interstate 10 at altitudes between 2,500 and 3,000 ft mean sea level. The helicopter continued flying along the I-10, then crossed over the San Bernadino International Airport to follow I-215 to I-15. The copter followed I-15 to its destination at the Boulder City Municipal Airport (BVU) and climbed between 4,000 and 5,500 ft msl, then descended to about 3,500 ft msl near Barstow, California. The NTSB prelim said the helicopter's ADS-B track data was lost soon after, likely due to terrain interference. The ADS-B data resumed near the Halloran Springs/I-15 exit west of the crash site. The final ADS-B data points tracked east-southeast and gradually descended in altitude while increasing in ground speed. The crash site was located 0.31 miles east-southeast of the final data point at an elevation of about 3,360 ft msl. Local law enforcement said several witnesses driving on the I-15 called 911 to report observing a fireball to the south. Witnesses said the weather conditions in the area were raining with a snow mix and described them as "not good." The wreckage was found in high mountainous desert and scrub brush-covered terrain. Debris was scattered about 300 feet along a 120-degree magnetic heading from the initial impact point, about a 1.5 ft deep, 12 ft long and 10 ft wide ground crater. The initial impact point contained portions of the right landing gear skin, right skin step, cockpit wiring and cabin floor structure. The right skin step protruded upward at a 45-degree angle at the eastern edge of the ground crater. To the immediate right of the crater was a ground divot, consistent in the size and shape of the rotor head, with two main rotor blade impact marks extending from the divot. All of the major helicopter components were found at the crash site. The fuselage was fragmented and the cockpit and cabin were destroyed. Some of the debris and vegetation showed thermal damage. The flight control tubes and linkages leading to the fight control servos were fragmented and the continuity could not be verified. All three of the pitch control links were attached at the swashplate and blade pitch change horns. The main rotor blades were fragmented and broomstrawed and the blade sleeves and tips were present.?Rotor mast and rotor head, tail fin and fenestron from NTSB prelim The fenestron tail section with the tail fin and horizontal stabilizer had separated from the forward part of the tail boom. All of the fenestron blades remained in their hubs and the blade tips showed chordwise scratches. The engine had rotational damage signatures and metal deposits consistent with powered operations at impact. At the time of the crash, it was overcast with a lowest ceiling of 5,500 ft AGL. The visibility was ten miles and wind speed was seven knots at 210 degrees. That night the temperature was about 44 degrees. AP News reported that two aviation experts who saw photos and video from the NTSB said the flight likely should have been canceled due to the poor nighttime weather conditions. Witnesses reported downed power lines and a former NTSB investigator, Al Diehl, told AP News that powerlines would be hard for the pilot to see at night and clipping the lines could have caused the crash.Today, we say goodbye to a visionary leader, whose passion, excellence, and unwavering commitment transformed Access into a global powerhouse. His legacy of excellence and compassion will continue to inspire us all. Rest in peace, Herbert Wigwe. pic.twitter.com/Od3LQJAaSy— Herbert Wigwe, C.F.R (@HerbertOWigwe) February 11, 2024 Killed in the crash were the CEO of Access Bank, 57-year-old Herbert Wigwe, and his wife Doreen and 29-year-old son Herbert. Wigwe was also a board member of the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company and on the Advisory Board for Friends Africa. AP News reported that the former chair of the Nigerian stock exchange, Bamofin Abimbola Ogunbanjo, was also killed. Both pilots, 25-year-old Benjamin Pettingill and 22-year-old Blake Hansen, also died in the crash. Both were licensed commercial helicopter pilots and flight instructors. The NTSB has not named a cause for the deadly crash but many witnesses have noted the weather in the area could have been a factor. The NTSB will not issue a probable cause until it releases the final report, in one to two years.
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