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Federal investigators looking at weather, other possible factors in fatal helicopter crash

This undated photograph shows Herbert Wigwe, chief executive of Access Bank, Nigeria in his Lagos office. Wigwe was killed Friday, Feb. 9, 2024 along with his wife and son when a helicopter they were riding in crashed near in Southern California's Mojave Desert. (AP Photo/Ayodeji Owolabi)
Herbert Wigwe, chief executive officer of Nigeria's Access Bank, pictured, along with his wife and son reportedly were among six people killed Friday in a helicopter crash in San Bernardino County. (Ayodeji Owolabi/AP)

Federal investigators are looking at weather conditions, reports of downed power lines near the accident site and other possible factors that may have caused a helicopter crash in San Bernardino County that killed six people, including the CEO of one of the largest banks in Nigeria.

"There were several 911 calls to report the crash" from motorists along Interstate 15, Michael Graham, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said during a news conference Saturday. He asked witnesses who had seen the crash or had photographs or videos of the incident to reach out to the agency at witness@ntsb.gov.

The Airbus EC 130 single-engine helicopter crashed near Halloran Springs in the Mojave Desert, about 75 miles northeast of Barstow shortly after 10 p.m. Friday, Graham said. The charter helicopter, which was operated by Orbic Air LLC of Burbank, had taken off from Palm Springs International Airport at 8:45 p.m. and was bound for Boulder City, Nev., Graham said.

Some witnesses said the crash occurred during weather conditions that they described as "rain and a wintry mix,” he said. Investigators, he said, are also "aware of some media reports of downed power lines near the accident site. We will be looking into these reports."

In addition, Graham said investigators would be looking at the helicopter's air worthiness, maintenance records and air traffic control operations to see if any of these areas may have been a factor in the crash.

All six people on board were killed, including two crew members and four passengers, he said. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department on Saturday said the identities of those killed in the crash were being withheld pending notification of their next of kin.

But Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a prominent Nigerian American economist and director-general of the World Trade Organization, identified one of the victims as Herbert Wigwe, the 57-year-old CEO of Access Bank, one of the largest financial institutions in Nigeria.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, she said Wigwe’s wife and son also died in the crash, as did Abimbola Ogunbanjo, former chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group. Some media were reporting that the family was planning to attend Sunday's Super Bowl game in Las Vegas.

The NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the crash. The helicopter wasn’t required to have a cockpit voice recorder or a flight data recorder and didn’t have either, Graham said.

“This is the beginning of a long process,” he said, adding that “a preliminary report will be available in a few weeks.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.