'Kill cord' should have prevented speedboat tragedy, police say
POLICE are investigating why standard safety measures failed to stop a runaway speedboat from killing a father and daughter after they were thrown from the vessel.
Nick Milligan, an advertising executive, died with his eight-year-old daughter Emily after their boat went “out of control” off the coast of Padstow in Cornwall on Sunday. Four members of the family were also injured when they were all tossed overboard and struck by the boat as it continued to circle despite not having a driver.
The boat was only stopped when an onlooker, hailed as a hero, managed to jump on board from another boat and take the wheel.
But officials are assessing whether the boat had a “kill cord”, which is attached to the driver and is designed to cut the fuel supply if the driver falls overboard; and if the boat did have the safety device, why it failed to work.
Mr Milligan, who was managing director of Sky’s advertising sales division, Sky Media, was on holiday with his family when the incident happened. His 39-year-old wife, Victoria, and their four-year-old son, Kit, remain in hospital with “serious, potentially life-changing injuries”, while their other daughters Amber, 12, and Olivia, 10, suffered minor injuries.
Witnesses lauded the intervention of a waterskiing instructor, Charlie Toogood, who leapt into the speedboat to turn off its engine and stop it from causing further harm.
Footage shot by eyewitnesses and aired by the BBC shows the Milligans’ speedboat circling in the water, while another vessel manoeuvres alongside it and Mr Toogood jumps from one boat to the other. Detective Superintendent Jim Colwell said: “Without the brave and heroic efforts of local people and holidaymakers in the minutes immediately after this incident in assisting the family whilst they were in the water, if people hadn’t come to their assistance, I’m confident that this incident would have been far worse in terms of the overall death toll.”
Matt Pavitt, from the North Cornwall Coastguard, said two kayakers and at least three other vessels went to the aid of the family “within minutes”, while one man who went to help was named as Will Jones.
“One of the kayakers actually managed to manoeuvre their kayak in between the boat while it was still circling to provide aid to some people incredibly quickly,” he said.
Det Supt Colwell said the kill cord would be a “key focus” for the police. He said: “Clearly the reasons why the boat didn’t stop when it otherwise should have done, when there was nobody left on it, is a key part of our investigation.”
Grieving relatives paid tribute to Nick and Emily Milligan yesterday. The 51-year-old’s brother, Max, said Mr Milligan, known as “Nico”, was an “extremely loving father, husband, son and brother, who doted on his family”. He added: “As children and teenagers we spent many summers and New Year’s Eves at New Polzeath here in Cornwall and a few years ago he built his dream home above Daymer Bay.
“That he and my delightful niece died at their favourite place at the end of a gloriously sunny bank holiday weekend provides us with a tiny glimmer of light. I’d like to thank Devon and Cornwall Police and all the staff at Derriford Hospital who have been incredible over the last few days.”
Kevin Rawlinson, Independent.co.uk
Independent News Service