In December 2014, Abimbola Jayeola became Nigeria’s first female helicopter captain.



On Thursday, February 4, 2016, she added another remarkable achievement when she ditched a Bristow helicopter headed to Lagos from Port Harcourt into the Atlantic Ocean saving the lives of the 13 people aboard.

“Ditching” is a controlled emergency measure to land an aircraft on water., an aviation website, describes ditching as a manoeuvre “that, by definition, cannot be practiced and may be extremely hazardous. It is only contemplated when no other realistic option remains in an emergency or, in the rotary case, imminent emergency situation.” 
Abimbola Jayeola
 Captain Jayeola (middle) flanked by family

The chopper, with 11 people — mostly ExxonMobil staff — and two crew members on board, sent a distress message shortly after 10am, and crashed into the Atlantic 20 minutes later. About 10 minutes later, MV-DIJAMA, a new vessel owned by local Nigerian company L.A.T.C Marine Ltd, was alerted on the accident.

It arrived at the crash scene around 11.50am and started rescue operation, with all the passengers already wearing their life jackets. MV-DIJAMA launched its Fast Rescue Boat immediately and started receiving the casualties from the chopper’s LifeRafts. The accident happened 70 nautical miles off Lagos.

The crash was not entirely incident-free. Three survivors suffered “hypothermia” — a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature usually caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, in this case the Atlantic Ocean. Another survivor had a swollen arm, while the fifth had swollen shoulder.

But it has now been revealed that were it not for the captain, all the lives aboard would have perished.

Captain Jayeola hails from Abeokuta in Ogun State. In 2008, she graduated from the Bristow Academy in Florida USA, where she “learned to believe in herself”. Jayeola currently works for Bristow Group and is based in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.