Details have emerged about how Nigeria’s first female combat pilot, Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, died at the Nigerian Air Force Base in Kaduna State on Tuesday.
According to a statement issued in Abuja on Wednesday by the Director of Public Relations and Information, Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, the 24-year-old was hit by a car driven by a former classmate who wanted to greet her.
The unnamed ex-classmate was reportedly reversing the car when it hit Arotile who fell and hit her head on the tarmac.
She subsequently died while receiving treatment at the hospital where she was taken to.
“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.
“Before her untimely death, Flying Officer Arotile made significant and outstanding contributions to the war against terrorism, armed banditry and other forms of criminality in the country, flying several combat missions,” the statement said.
Daramola explained that Arotile joined the Nigerian Air Force out of passion for the job.
Born on December 13, 1995 to the family of Mr and Mrs Akintunde Arotile in Kaduna, Arotile hailed from Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State.
She attended Air Force Primary School, Kaduna from 2000 – 2005 and Air Force Secondary School, Kaduna from 2006 – 2011 before she later gained admission into the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna as a member of 64 Regular Course on September 22, 2012.
Arotile was commissioned into the Nigerian Air Force as a Pilot Officer on September 16, 2017 and held a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the Nigerian Defence Academy.
She was winged as the first ever female combat helicopter pilot in the Nigerian Air Force on October 15, 2019, after completing her training in South Africa.
She possessed a commercial pilot license and also underwent tactical flying training on the Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter in Italy.
“Incidentally, she introduced the newly acquired Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopter to the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, during the induction ceremony at Eagle Square in Abuja on February 6, 2020,” the statement noted.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, while condoling with her family and Nigeria, said Arotile would be missed.