Father of four killed in speedboat crash alongside young daughter was 'loving family man'
Published 06/05/2013 | 18:53
A father of four who was killed in a speedboat accident along with his eight-year-old daughter was an "extremely loving father, husband, son and brother, who doted on his family", his brother said today.
Nick Milligan (51) the managing director of Sky's advertising sales division, Sky Media, was declared dead at the scene in Padstow, Cornwall, yesterday afternoon along with his daughter, Emily.
Speaking at a press conference today, Max Milligan also paid tribute to his "delightful niece".
Detective Superintendent Jim Colwell said that Mr Milligan's 39-year-old wife Victoria and their four-year-old son Kit remain in hospital with "serious, potentially life changing injuries", while their two other daughters Amber (12) and Olivia (10) suffered minor injuries in the accident.
Max Milligan said: "Nick, or Nico as he was known to us, was an extremely loving father and husband.
"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."
The family, from Wandsworth, south-west London, were on holiday in the coastal town when they were thrown from the boat which went "out of control" and struck them.
Waterskiing instructor Charlie Toogood has been hailed a hero after he reportedly leapt into the speedboat to turn off its engine and stop it from causing further harm.
A second man, Will Jones, was also named as someone who came to their rescue.
Det Supt Colwell told the press conference at Bodmin police station: "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 in the manner that they did, I'm confident that this incident would have been far worse in terms of the overall death toll."
Det Supt Colwell said the presence of a "kill cord" - a safety device to ensure a boat's engine is cut if the person in control goes overboard - would form a "key focus" of the investigation into the accident.
He told reporters: "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.
"The kill cord - the presence of, the state of, and how it was attached or otherwise - will be a key focus of our investigation."
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".
"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.
Mr Pavitt said another boat operator then moved alongside the speedboat and jumped on board to bring it under control.
"Purely and simply I think he realised the severity of the situation," he added.
"I would ask that the individual is left without too much pursuance from the press at this time because it's obviously sinking in the enormity of what he achieved yesterday."
Mr Pavitt also paid tribute to the "outstanding" efforts of those that came to the rescue in nearby boats.
He told the conference: "We really must pay credit to those boat operators for the outstanding work that they did and without a doubt, without the intervention of the one individual who managed to get on board the vessel we could have been dealing with a far more serious situation than we are today."
He said an investigation is being carried out by police and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) who have worked to make sure all the possible evidence has been recovered from the scene.
Det Supt Colwell said Mrs Milligan and Kit remain in hospital where they are being treated for serious leg injuries.
He said police had already received a "groundswell" of eyewitness accounts from people who were helping with the investigation and were "well into double figures" in terms of witness statements taken so far.
But he urged members of the public who had seen the incident to come forward if they had not already done so and in particular for anyone who has video footage to provide it to police.
Footage recorded by a witness has already been shown on the BBC, which shows the speedboat going around in circles before someone intervenes.
Other tributes have been paid to Mr Milligan, who was described as "one of the kindest, nicest, funniest men I have ever met" by one person who knew him.
Sky 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."
Ben Fenton wrote on Twitter: "Nick Milligan, who died with one of his kids in the Padstow speedboat accident, was one of the kindest, nicest funniest men I have ever met."
Stephen M said: "Incredibly sad news about Nick Milligan. An absolute tragedy, one of the truly lovely people in our business."
And Stefano Hatfield tweeted: "Whenever I think of my encounters with Nick Milligan over 20 years all I can recall is laughter.Lovely, charming twinkle-eyed man.
"One of industry's best and loveliest."
The family were in Cornwall for the bank holiday weekend when the accident happened in the Camel Estuary near Padstow shortly before 4pm.
The popular harbour area was bristling with people enjoying the sunshine who watched the incident unfold just half a mile offshore.
999 operators received their first call from a mobile phone at 3.48pm and were inundated with more calls seconds later.
A major search and rescue operation was launched involving RNLI lifeboats, RAF helicopters and coastguard rescue teams before the casualties were airlifted to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.
Charlotte Jacobs took to Twitter to write to the RNLI, saying: "We witnessed incredible bravery in Padstow today during the tragic accident that unfolded. The men involved deserve medals."
Writing on Facebook, Harry Onslow said: "Thoughts are with those involved. horrible. well done Will Jones and Charlie Toogood. heroes."
Maria Chase also wrote on the website: "We were down in Padstow today and saw the tragedy and saw a hero who saved more lives by jumping on to an out-of-control speedboat from another boat."
The boat, which was owned by the family, has been taken away for examination.
The boat that the Milligan family were travelling in is an 8m-long rib (rigid inflatable boat) that can reach speeds of around 50mph.
It was made by APV Marine in Christchurch, Dorset, which describes its range of Cobra ribs on its website as being for "family adventure".
The Cobra Nautique 8.0m is a "new addition to the Cobra fleet using the latest cutting edge technology and boat building techniques", the website says.
It adds: "Exemplary seakeeping qualities make it a joy to drive and one of the most sociable ribs on the market with plenty of seats for both friends and family. With a huge range of engine options for performance and economy, the 8m can give hours of fun whilst being kind to the pocket."
Ribs are lightweight boats with rigid frames which have inflatable support so they almost never sink. They are designed to hydroplane which means they glide across water, even in rough conditions.
Built with a solid, shaped hull, ribs are known for being stable. An inflatable collar allows a rib to maintain buoyancy even if a lot of water comes on-board.
They are usually propelled by one or more outboard motors, or an inboard motor turning a water jet or stern drive.