NAF rules out foul play in first female combat pilot’s death

The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, has extolled the virtues of the late Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile who died in a car accident on Tuesday.

The Nigerian Air Force has ruled out insinuations of possible conspiracy in the death of first female combat helicopter pilot, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, who was knocked down by an old schoolmate at the NAF Base in Kaduna.

Giving details of its preliminary investigations, the Director Public Relations and Information, Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, disclosed: “The death of Flying Officer Arotile was caused by blunt force trauma to the head and significant bleeding resulting from being struck by the vehicle”.

According to him, it would have been ideal for the entire investigation to be concluded before details on the incident are released but “the NAF, in sensitivity to public concerns occasioned by the spread of false information, appreciates the imperative to provide more clarity at this very difficult moment”.

He said a civil case; the matter will be handed over to the Nigeria Police “with a view to further investigating and charging the suspects to court in accordance with extant laws”.

He established that the driver of the vehicle, Mr. Nehemiah Adejoh does not have a valid driver’s license and will be charged at the end of the investigations.

Giving graphic of the incident, the NAF Spokesperson, revealed: “On 14 July 2020 at about 10.55am, Late Flying Officer Arotile received a phone call from her colleague, Flying Officer Perry Karimo, a fellow helicopter pilot from the 405 HCTG, who wanted to discuss arrangements for their return to Enugu, requesting that she comes to the Base so that they could work out the modalities.

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“Subsequently, at about 10.58am, the Late Arotile placed a call through to Squadron Leader Diepiriye Batubo, the Group Operations Officer (GOO) of 405 HCTG, who was in Minna at the time, to clarify issues regarding her deployment.

“It must be highlighted that the call FROM Flying Officer Karimo as well as the one TO the Squadron Leader Batubo both took place before 11.00am over 5 hours before the incident which led to her death”.

He went on: “Flying Officer Arotile was later conveyed from Sabo to the NAF Base Kaduna by her sister, Mrs. Adegboye where the deceased dropped her phone for charging at a house in the Instructor Pilots’ Quarters belonging to Squadron Leader Alfa Ekele.

“Her elder sister later dropped her off at the Base Mammy Market at about 4.00pm where she proceeded to photocopy and laminate some documents.

“It was while she was returning from the Mammy Market at about 4.30pm that three of her former schoolmates at the Air Force Secondary School (now Air Force Comprehensive School) Kaduna: Mr. Nehemiah Adejoh, Mr. Igbekele Folorunsho and Mr. Festus Gbayegun, drove past her in a Kia Sorento SUV, with Registration Number AZ 478 MKA.

“It is noteworthy that Messrs Adejoh, Folorunsho and Gbayegun are all civilians who live outside NAF Base Kaduna but were on their way to visit one Mrs. Chioma Ugwu, wife of Squadron Leader Chukwuemeka Ugwu, who lives at Ekagbo Quarters on the Base.

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He added: “Upon recognising their schoolmate, Arotile, after passing her, Mr Adejoh, who was driving, reversed the vehicle, ostensibly in an attempt to quickly meet up with the deceased, who was walking in the opposite direction.

“In the process, the vehicle struck Flying Officer Arotile from the rear, knocking her down with significant force and causing her to hit her head on the pavement.

“The vehicle then ran over parts of her body as it veered off the road beyond the kerb and onto the pavement, causing her further injuries.

“Flying Officer Arotile was subsequently rushed to the 461 NAF Hospital Kaduna for treatment while Mr Folorunsho (one of the occupants of the vehicle), who is also an Accident & Emergency Nurse at the St Gerard Catholic Hospital Kaduna, administered First Aid.

“Flying Officer Arotile was confirmed dead by the On-Call Doctor at the 461 NAF Hospital at about 4.45pm on 14 July 2020, as a result of the head injuries.

“The trio of Messrs Nehemiah Adejoh, Igbekele Folorunsho and Festus Gbayegun were immediately detained at the Air Provost Wing, 453 Base Services Group Kaduna as investigations began.

“They were subjected to Toxicology Tests at the 461 NAF Hospital but no traces of alcohol or psychotropic substances were found in their systems.”

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