High speed turn caused Battersea TV exec Nick Milligan and daughter's Padstow speedboat crash, investigators find

Nick Milligan

Nick Milligan

First published in News
Last updated
by , Chief Reporter

A father and young daughter were killed in a speedboat accident because he tried to take a high-speed turn too fast, marine investigators have concluded.

Nick Milligan, 51, of Routh Road, Wandsworth, his wife Victoria, 39, and their four children Amber, 12, Olivia, 10, Emily, eight, and Kit, four, were all thrown from the high-powered boat on the Camel Estuary, in Padstow, Cornwall, on May 5 last year.

Mr Milligan, a TV executive at Sky, and his youngest daughter Emily died after being struck by the out-of-control boat, named Milly, as it repeatedly circled the estuary unmanned at almost 50mph.

Mrs Milligan was badly injured in the accident, losing part of a leg, while her youngest Kit suffered "life-changing" injuries.

A report compiled by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) concluded that Mr Milligan was not wearing a "kill cord" device which would have cut the boat's power and stopped the engine.

It said Mrs Milligan had been at the helm of the speedboat when her husband advised her to make a turn, but his wife was unwilling to do so, the report added, because she was concerned there was not enough space to avoid the nearby beach.

"Due to encouragement from the children and Mr Milligan she began a slow wide turn," the report said.

"Mr Milligan then reached across, in front of his wife, took the helm in his right hand and the throttle in his left, and then increased the engine throttle setting to full as he turned the helm to starboard.

"The boat immediately accelerated and heeled into the turn and then suddenly, and violently, rolled back to port and ejected all its occupants out over the port side and into the water.

"The boat then continued to circle under full power. The family were on the surface of the water, supported by their lifejackets and buoyancy aids, and the boat circled back towards them, striking several of them."

Wandsworth Guardian: Nick Milligan

Mr Milligan's four children Olivia, Kit, Amber and Emily

The MIAB report described the turn attempted by Mr Milligan as "out of character" and an "exceptionally unusual manoeuvre" for a recreational boat.

A post-mortem examination showed Mr Milligan had 56mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood at the time of his death, with the legal limit being 80mg.

The report added: "It cannot be established whether the wine he had consumed about one-and-a-half hours earlier adversely affected his judgement."

The report also highlighted that it was Mr Milligan’s first trip of the year in the boat, after a break of eight months, which could have affected his familiarity with its handling.

Safety advice given to all speedboat users included warnings to ensure all occupants were aware of the boat's behaviour at speed, but it also recommended "avoiding making sharp turns at speed".

Several members of the public were highly commended for their quick-thinking and bravery, actions which the report agreed may well have saved the lives of the surviving family members.

Wandsworth Guardian: WAND GREEN High speed turn caused Padstow crash killing father and daughter, investigators find.

The speedboat crashed in Padstow, Cornwall (Click here to enlarge image)

Three canoeists, who were first on the scene, provided first aid and triage to the casualties while also phoning the emergency services.

The bravery and seamanship of a local boatman who managed to board the speedboat as it circled out-of-control in the estuary was also praised.

Following the release of Wednesday's report, the Milligan family said in a statement: "We are still coming to terms with this tragic accident which has left us without Nick, a loving husband, father, son and brother, and Emily, whose life was only just beginning.

"We sincerely hope that awareness of this accident will mean that another family does not have to go through anything similar."

Since the accident The Royal Yachting Association has ramped up its safety advice relating to kill cords including producing promotional You Tube videos, social media film clips, boat show talks and training courses.

The MIAB report also found there had been 21 other accidents, resulting in seven fatalities and 12 injuries, involving small speedboats which have continued out of control because a kill cord was not used.


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