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Safety device 'not worn' at time of boat accident

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 17, 2013

FAMILY TRAGEDY: Nick Milligan, with his wife Victoria and children, from left, Emily, Olivia, Kit and Amber.

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A SAFETY device which would have stopped an out-of-control speedboat running over a family of six, killing two of them, was not being worn at the time of the tragedy, investigators have found.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has released its "initial findings" into the incident at Padstow which claimed the lives of Nick Milligan and his eight-year-old daughter Emily.

His wife Victoria, 39, and son Kit, 4, were also severely injured after the family were thrown into the River Camel from their boat on the afternoon of May 5. The couple's other children, Amber, 12, and Olivia, 10, escaped serious injury.

"They were manoeuvring the boat at speed in the Camel estuary near Padstow, Cornwall," the MAIB said in its safety bulletin.

"Some members of the family were subsequently run over by the rigid hulled inflatable boat [RHIB], leading to the death of the father and the eight-year-old daughter and serious injuries to the mother and the four-year-old son."

The circumstances of how the family ended up in the water were "not clear". But investigators said the kill cord on the boat, a safety device designed to cut the throttle when pulled, "was not attached to the driver at the time of the accident".

The MAIB said: "Consequently, when the driver was ejected from the boat, the kill cord did not operate to stop the engine and the RHIB continued to circle out of control, and at speed.

"As the RHIB circled, it ran over the family in the water a number of times, leading to the deaths and injuries."

Mr Milligan, 51, the managing director of Sky's advertising sales division, Sky Media, was declared dead at the scene in Padstow, along with his daughter.

The family were shielded from the out-of-control boat by kayakers and local boat owners before being airlifted to hospital in Plymouth.

Waterskiing instructor Charlie Toogood leapt from his own boat into the craft to turn off its engine and prevent further tragedy.

Mr Toogood, 32, an RNLI crew volunteer at Rock until two years ago, was praised for his "incredible bravery which undoubtedly saved lives".

But Mr Toogood said: "There were many 'heroes' in this tragic incident, all of whom did a remarkable job in difficult circumstances."

Alongside its early findings, the MAIB also issued a "safety lesson".

It said "to ensure that this tragic accident is not repeated" owners of boats fitted with kill cords needed to test them regularly and ensure the cord is in good condition.

The cords should always be attached "securely to the driver", while engines should be stopped before the cord is transferred to another driver.

The MAIB, which will publish its investigation in due course, is investigating the incident alongside Devon and Cornwall Police.

A spokesman for the Milligan family, who were on holiday at their "dream home" overlooking nearby Daymer Bay, confirmed they had all now left Derriford Hospital.

He said: "Amber and Olivia have been discharged while Victoria and Kit have been transferred to a London hospital. Victoria's left leg has been amputated below the knee. Kit is responding well to treatment but both require further surgery. We are grateful for the continued support of our family and friends and the good wishes we have received from the public."

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