By Michael Adeshina
Nigeria’s first female combat helicopter pilot, Tolulope Arotile, has passed away.
Arotile died at the age of 23 after sustaining head injuries from a road traffic accident at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Base in Kaduna.
She died less than a year after she was decorated as the first female combatant helicopter pilot.
Confirming the news, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said the flight officer died on Tuesday.
He described Arotile’s death as an “irreparable loss”.
He said, “It is with great sorrow that the Nigerian Air Force regretfully announces the unfortunate demise of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, who died today (Tuesday), 14 July 2020, as a result of head injuries sustained from a road traffic accident at NAF Base Kaduna.
“Until her death, Flying Officer Arotile, who was commissioned into the NAF in September 2017 as a member of Nigerian Defence Academy Regular Course 64, was the first-ever female combat helicopter pilot in the Service.
“During her short but impactful stay in the Service, the late Arotile contributed significantly to the efforts to rid the North Central States of armed bandits and other criminal elements by flying several combat missions under Operation GAMA AIKI in Minna, Niger State.
“We pray that the Almighty God grants her soul eternal rest.”
Arotile, who hailed from Iffe in Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State, recently completed a program at the Starlite International Training Academy, South Africa.
Arotile also graduated as the best flight student from the Nigerian Air Force in 2017.
Meanwhile, many Nigerians took to social media to mourn the flight officer’s death.
Senator Shehu Sani said: “It’s sad to learn that few minutes after I passed the NAF Airforce Base Kaduna, a tragic accident happened which took away the life of one of Nigeria’s finest and first female combat Helicopter Pilot, Tolulope Arotile. A great loss to our country. May her soul Rest In Peace.
“Tolulope Arotile was a shining star who broke barriers & defied conventions. She raced through an uncharted & dreaded path & braced d tape in victory. She refused to be hindered by neither d ceiling nor d sky. She was a woman who conquered d impossible & the http://unimaginable.RIP”
@abdul_dodomix said, “This is a great loss to the nation, I commiserate with @CAS_AMSadique.”
@lekanpaul, said, “Her death came 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.”
Zahra Musa said Arotile’s death was a great loss for Nigeria.
“Oh! She was so young! That’s a great loss for her family and Nigeria! Her achievements at such a young age are remarkable indeed. Rest In Peace gallant one,” Musa said.
@1Vitalsplash tweeted, “So sad. May her soul RIP. Road traffic accident? Just like that? On NAF base? Seriously?”
“Sad end to a promising career!” @OAjayi added.
Heroine of the Nigerian Federation. Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile served her nation. She flew several combat mission under Operation Gama Aiki pic.twitter.com/FHQrwaMoL5
— Defense News Nigeria (@DefenseNigeria) July 15, 2020