FAMILY, friends and colleagues wept uncontrollably Thursday morning as the body of the late Tolulope Arotile, Nigeria’s first combat helicopter pilot arrived Military Cemetery Abuja to be committed to mother earth.
The interment had in attendance Gabriel Olonisakin, Chief of Defence Staff, Abubakar Sadique, the Chief of Air Staff and air force personnel.
A Nigerian Air Force ambulance marked AF 442 conveyed her body to the Military Cementery along Airport road.
The body was lowered into the grave at exactly 11.05 am followed by a barrage of 21 gunshots.
Arotile who died last Tuesday from head injuries sustained from a road traffic accident at the NAF Base in Kaduna State, according to the Nigerian Air Force, was accorded full military honours as the hierarchy of the Nigerian Military led by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin paid tributes.
In a series of tweets last week, Abubakar Sadique, the Chief of Air Staff had described Arotile as a disciplined, intelligent and courageous officer whose loss is irreparable for the force.
The CAS submitted that the late 23-year-old officer was a shining star.
“I recall meeting her at the Minna Airport, while on operational visit, after one of such missions and seeing her eagerness to contribute towards the restoration of lasting peace to the affected areas. Her death is a huge loss to NAF family and indeed the entire nation,” he said.
Also present at the funeral were Yahaya Bello, Governor of Kogi State and his wife, Bala Ib’n Nalla, the Chairman Committee Chairman on Air Force and the family members of the deceased.
Ar0tile was said to have been “inadvertently hit by the reversing vehicle of an excited former Air Force secondary school classmate while trying to greet her.”
She died eight months after she was commissioned as Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot.
She graduated as the best flight student from her set in 2017.
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.
Arotile had just ended a programme at the Starlite International Training Academy, South Africa.