Eight months ago, Tolulope Arotile, the first female helicopter pilot in the history of the Nigerian Air Force, was decorated by Sadique Abubakar, chief of air staff.
Arotile had just ended a programme at the Starlite International Training Academy, South Africa.
While decorating her alongside Kafayat Sanni, the first female fighter pilot, Abubakar had said: “They are not only female officers but outstanding aviators. While one of the two pilots is the first female fighter pilot in the 55 years history of the NAF, the second one is the first female combatant helicopter pilot.”
But less than a year after, Arotile was killed in an accident at the Nigerian Air Force base in Kaduna state.
According to a statement, the deceased did not recover from the injuries sustained in the accident.
She was said to have lived a “short but impactful life”.
“It is with great sorrow that the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) regretfully announces the unfortunate demise of Flying Officer Tolulope Arotile, who died today, 14 July 2020, as a result of head injuries sustained from a road traffic accident at NAF Base Kaduna,” the statement read.
“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, late Arotile, who hailed from Iffe in Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State, 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.
“The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, on behalf of officers, airmen, airwomen and civilian staff of the NAF, commiserates with the family of late Flying Officer Arotile over this irreparable loss. We pray that the Almighty God grants her soul eternal rest.”
When she graduated as the best flight student from her set in 2017, her parents were among those who attended a ceremony held in her honour.
After that programme, the mother had taken to social media to express her joy.
“On behalf of my entire family. Engr Akin and Mrs Arotile l will like to sincerely appreciate every 1 for honouring the invitation to celebrate with PILOT OFFICER T.AROTILE. I am indeed grateful and pray that God will reward you all exceedingly and abundantly above all you wld think or ask of Him. Once again, thank u and God bless,” she had written.
— TheCable (@thecableng) October 15, 2019