Thursday 17 October 2019

Padstow speedboat crash: 'tiny glimmer of light that they died in the place they loved,' say family of BSkyB executive

Victoria Ward, and Rosa Silverman

THE family of a senior television executive killed alongside his eight-year-old daughter in a speedboat accident said that the fact they had died in their favourite place offered them a “tiny glimmer of light”.

Nick Milligan, 51, and his youngest daughter Emily, were declared dead at the scene when the boat they were riding in the Camel Estuary near Padstow, Cornwall, flipped over, hurling them into the water before mowing over them.

Mr Milligan’s wife Victoria, 39, and their son Kit, four, suffered “serious, potentially life changing leg injuries” while the couple's other two daughters, Amber, 12, and Olivia, 10, escaped relatively unharmed.

Max Milligan, 46, fought back tears as he paid tribute to his brother, the managing director of Sky's advertising sales division, Sky Media, who died near the holiday home he once described as his “most treasured possession”.

"Nick, or Nicko as he was known to us, was an extremely loving father, husband, son and brother who doted on his family,” he said.

"As children and teenagers we spent many summers and New Year's Eves at New Polzeath here in Cornwall and a few years he built his dream house above Daymer Bay.

That he and my delightful niece died in their favourite place at the end of a glorious sunny Bank Holiday weekend provides us with a tiny glimmer of light.”

The family, from Wandsworth, south west London, had spent the weekend at their large white detached holiday home in Trebetherick when the tragedy occurred shortly before 4pm on Sunday.

All six were thrown from the boat and were then hit in the water as it careered around in circles in the harbour.

Numerous calls were made to the emergency services as horrified holiday-makers watched the scene unfold and the water turn “red with blood”.

The eight-metre vessel, which was owned by the family, was only stopped when Charlie Toogood, a local water skiing instructor, managed to hook a rope around its propeller to reduce its speed before leaping on board to bring it under control.

Matt Pavitt, the coastguard sector manager for Cornwall, hailed the 32-year-old’s “incredible seamanship and bravery” and said that if it was not for his actions, the death toll could have been far higher.

Two kayakers and at least three other vessels went to the aid of the family "within minutes", he said, adding: "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."

A total of 25 Coastguards were involved in the rescue. Three helicopters airlifted the family to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.

Police and investigators from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) have begun an inquiry into the accident and have conducted mechanical and forensic examinations of the boat.

Supt Jim Colwell of Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed that the accounts of the surviving members of the family would form a key part of the investigation and appealed for anyone with video footage of the accident to come forward.

It is not yet known whether anyone on board operated a kill cord, which should immediately cut out the engine if they fall from the vessel.

Both Mr Milligan and Mr Pavitt praised the actions of all those who went to the family’s aid whose actions were described as “incredible”.

Amber is thought to attend a weekly boarding school outside London while the rest of the children attend local prep school Finton House.

Shocked neighbours in the affluent London suburb described Mr Milligan as “a nice family man who was great with his kids”.

Olivia Henderson said: “I would often see him in the park on Wandsworth Common playing football or Frisbee with the children or walking their dog, a black Springer Spaniel.

"Little Emily was a sweet little girl. She would be out on the street in her school uniform, playing on her scooter. She was always smiling.

"Vicky looked after them so well. They were always polite and well turned out. They were just a lovely, beautiful family."

Emma Russell, 36, a waitress who lives near the family's holiday home, said: "They were very lovely, very polite. They just seemed a really happy, really close family.

"I don't think anyone could say a bad word about them.

"I think Cornwall was quite close to their hearts and I think they were out on boats quite a bit here. They were certainly very outdoorsy, and just very nice and very friendly people.”

A member of staff at the nearby Hotel Cornwall St Moritz said the Milligans had often stayed there before they had built their own house in the area and continued to visit the hotel restaurant and pool.

The staff member, who did not want to be named, said: They're a delightful family. I can't believe Nick's gone.

"It's a great tragedy. It's difficult to believe that the six of them won't come bowling in through the front door again.”

Mr Milligan, who was educated at Millfield School and Reading University, was a veteran television executive who helped found Channel 5 before moving to Sky in 2004.

A BSkyB spokesman said in a statement: "Everyone at Sky is deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the tragic accident involving the Milligan family.

"Nick has been a great friend and colleague for many years and his loss will be felt across our company and the industry. Our very deepest sympathies are with his family at this time."

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