THE Nigerian Air Force says Tolulope Arotile, Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot who died on Tuesday in Kaduna was knocked down by her former classmate while reversing a car.
Ibikunle Daramola, Director of Public Relations and Information for the Nigerian Air Force revealed in a statement on Wednesday that the ex-classmate, whose identity is yet to be released, was reportedly reversing the car when it hit Arotile and caused her to hit her head on the tarmac.
“Flying Officer Arotile died on July 14, 2020 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,” the NAF spokesperson said.
She died moments later while receiving treatment at the hospital.
Meanwhile, prominent Nigerians have paid tributes to the late pilot.
The presidency in a statement issued on Wednesday by Garba Shehu, Presidential Spokesperson described Arotile’s service and stay on earth as having impacted greatly on the nation, adding that her efforts to ensure peace and security in the country would forever be remembered.
“President Muhammadu Buhari received with deep pain the passing of Flying Officer, Tolulope Arotile, condoling with the family on loss of such a promising officer, whose short stay on earth impacted greatly on the nation, especially in peace and security,” Shehu said in the statement.
“The President salutes Arotile’s bravery in the field to protect the country from onslaught of bandits and terrorists, assuring that her memory will be indelible, and her efforts remembered.”
Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, also expressed shock over the passing of the young officer.
In a tributary tweet shared on his Twitter page, the Speaker extended his condolences to the family of the deceased, adding that the nation has lost a great talent.
“I received with great shock the death of our country’s first female combat pilot, Tolulope Arotile, I saw her months ago display her talent to the admiration of many of us at a @NigAirForce event. Indeed we have lost a great talent! My condolences to the Arotile family and N.A.F,” Gbajabiamila’s post read.
Yahaya Bello, Governor of Kogi State has shared his condolences over the death of Arotile.
Bello in his tribute signed by Onogwu Muhammed, his Chief Press Secretary, described Arotile’s death as a national tragedy, classifying her as a top notch military aviator who exuded professionalism and patriotism in service.
“We are devastated by the tragic death of this young promising lady who took bravery to the next level, demystified prejudicial stereotype and flew her parents, state and nation high in honour and professionalism,” the statement read in part.
According to NAF, the late combat pilot helicopter pilot contributed significantly to the war against banditry in North Central and other criminal elements by flying several combat missions under Operation GAMA AIKI in Minna, Niger State.
The late young officer hailed from Kogi State.