How NAF’s first female combat helicopter pilot died

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As the country grapples to come to terms with the shocking news of the death of the first female combat helicopter pilot in Nigeria, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, Tuesday,  eulogies have continued to pour in as President Muhammadu Buhari commended her bravery in the field to protect the country from the onslaught of bandits and terrorists.

Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State said at the age of 23, late Arotile has woven her own story into the Nigerian folklore as a patriot who died in defence of her nation.

The House of Representatives described her as “a heroine whose contribution in the war against terrorism and other criminal elements in the country cannot be wished away easily,” while Nigerian Air Force, NAF, described her career as one of “impactful service” that contributed “significantly to the efforts to rid the North Central states of armed bandits and other criminal elements.

When the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, on October 15, 2019, made history with the decoration of the first female helicopter combat pilot, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, with their pilot wings after 55 years, little did they know that eight months after, the celebrated pilot will be killed in such regrettable circumstances.

How she died

Arotile reportedly died Tuesday at the age of 24, when she was inadvertently hit by the reversing vehicle of an excited former Air Force Secondary School classmate while trying to greet her. Announcing her death in a statement late Tuesday, spokesman of Nigeria, Air Force, Ibikunle Daramola, said Arotile died as a result of head injuries sustained from a road traffic accident at NAF Base in Kaduna State.

Arotile died barely a year after she was winged as a combat helicopter pilot in the Air Force following the completion of her course in South Africa. Describing Arotile’s career as one of “impactful service” who contributed “significantly to the efforts to rid the North Central states of armed bandits and other criminal elements, Daramola said the combat pilot flew several combat missions under Operation Gama Aiki in Minna, Niger State.

In a statement by Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, Femi Adesina, said: “President Buhari commiserates with the Nigerian Air Force, airmen, airwomen and all friends of the deceased, recalling her deft skills in manoeuvring combat helicopters, which he had physically witnessed with pride.

“The President sympathises with government and people of Kogi State on the loss.”

He prayed that the Almighty God will receive the soul of the departed and comfort the family she left behind.

The First Lady, Dr Aisha  Buhari, also described the death of Tolulope Arotile, as heartbreaking.

The First Lady through her verified twitter handle, @aishambuhari, said she received the news with a heavy heart.

Mrs Buhari condoled with the family of the deceased Flying Officer, Nigerian Airforce and the country over the loss.

 

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