'Big mistake' led to boat deaths
The widow of a senior television executive who died alongside his eight-year-old daughter in a speedboat accident told an inquest today of her "big mistake" in not using the boat's safety device.
Nick Milligan, known as Nicko to family and friends, and Emily lost their lives in the tragedy in Padstow, Cornwall, on May 5 last year.
His wife Victoria told of her regret that neither she nor her husband was attached to the boat's kill cord - a safety device designed to cut power in an emergency.
After the family of six were thrown out of the boat, it circled out of control at high speed, hitting them, the inquest in Truro heard.
Mr Milligan, 51, managing director of Sky's advertising sales division Sky Media, had been on holiday with his 40-year-old wife and their four children, Amber, 13, Olivia, 12, Emily, and six-year-old Kit.
He and Emily sustained fatal injuries while Mrs Milligan lost the lower part of her left leg.
Amber suffered a cut hand, Olivia a bump to her head, and Kit serious injuries to his leg.
Mrs Milligan told the inquest, which is being held before a jury, that she had driven the speedboat - called Milly - about 20 times during 2012 and had completed her powerboat course on it.
Describing the build-up to the incident, she said: "Nicko said he needed a wee and put Milly into neutral and removed the kill cord from around his leg. I went up to the steering wheel and I had always done this to ensure that Kit did not interfere with the controls.
"I stood by the steering wheel and Nicko returned to the bow of the boat and started to play with the children. I was worried as the tide was going out and the boat was about halfway between Rock beach and Padstow beach.
"The sea was flat and calm and I decided to drive Milly back to the mooring. I did not put the kill cord around my leg because it was only a short distance to the mooring.
"As I started to drive back to the mooring, the children all called out that they wanted to go around again.
"Nicko then said 'turn right, turn right'. We were not going very fast and I did not think there was enough room to turn. He then grabbed the wheel with his right hand and accelerated with his left hand. Nicko was standing on my left.
"I remember the acceleration was not smooth and it jerked. Nicko had never caused it to jerk in this way before. I remember feeling like we had hit a wall and we all fell out. We all fell into the water. Kit was screaming as I grabbed him and Nicko was telling us to stay together.
"Nicko was splashing about in the water, he was upset. He was saying 'stay in the middle, stay in the middle'.
"I could see the beach and started to swim with Kit. The boat was going around us very fast and I think the accelerator was at its highest setting.
"I was not aware of where the others were but as I swam with Kit the boat came straight towards me and hit me in the chest. It caught my leg and I saw lots of blood."
Pausing to compose herself, Mrs Milligan continued: "I knew I had to get out of the water. I did not know where anybody else was, other than Kit.
"I did not see the boat hit anybody else. It continued to circle. I remember a woman came to help.
"Prior to the accident I am not aware of anything to distract either of us. The route we took that day was one we completed every time we took the boat out and there was nothing out of the ordinary.
"Neither of us had ever made a manoeuvre when we felt unsafe or about to fall out. I would like to clarify that we never 'wave jumped' in the estuary."
Asked by Cornwall coroner Emma Carlyon about falling out of the boat, Mrs Milligan replied: "I saw the boat speed away from us - that's all I can remember - it all happened very quickly.
"I thought maybe we had hit something. It was so sudden and we didn't have a chance. One second we were in the boat and the next second we were in the water.
"I wasn't aware where anyone else was. My survival instincts kicked in and I just grabbed Kit and decided to swim towards the beach."
Asked about the kill cord, Mrs Milligan said: "I didn't put it back on because I thought Nicko was going to come back and take over. Obviously that was a big mistake."