Eurocopter EC 130B4, the aircraft model that crashed on Friday and claimed the lives of Herbert Wigwe, Access Holdings CEO, his wife, son and three others, suffered five crashes last year alone, FIJ has learned.
Since 1975, 100 crashes involving the aircraft and previous models manufactured by Airbus Helicopters SAS have been recorded.
Wigwe died in a helicopter crash near Interstate 15 in Southern California’s Mojave Desert, and questions arose over the circumstances surrounding the crash.
FIJ has gathered that a similar crash occurred on December 1, 2023, involving the same Eurocopter EC 130B4, which struck power cables during takeoff and crashed into a ball of flames near Ex Hacienda el Hospital, Cuautla, Morelos in Mexico. Three people died in the accident, and it was the last of 11 crashes involving Airbus models in 2023.
The same aircraft model crashed in the Grand Canyon in 2018 and claimed the lives of five people.
Scott Booth, who piloted that flight and managed to survive, told investigators that the aircraft encountered a violent gust of wind before spinning uncontrollably and crashing into flames.
The parents of Jonathan Udall, one of the passengers on the flight, who was on a honeymoon with Eleanor, his wife, filed a lawsuit against Papillon Airways Inc., the company that owned the aircraft, and the manufacturer.
These plaintiffs argued before a Nevada judge that the aircraft was unsafe for air travel as it did not have a crash-resistant fuel system, which was why it regularly burst into flames upon crashing.
In January, the court ordered that Papillon pay them $24.6 million and Airbus pay $75 million for the loss of their son.
Speaking to the Associated Press after the ruling, Gary Robb, the family’s lawyer, said, “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.”
His statement was a nod to the fact that Jonathan did not die as a result of the direct impact of the crash but suffered burns in the explosion, which caused his death days later.
Among the 100 crashes the Airbus aircraft have suffered since 1975, many have been without casualties, but Friday’s incident claimed the most lives in one crash.