Mother describes boat crash horror
A woman has described how she discovered her husband had been killed in a speedboat accident by hearing her daughter screaming "Daddy's dead, Daddy's dead".
Victoria Milligan, 40, was later told her eight-year-old daughter Emily had also lost her life in the tragedy, which happened in Padstow, Cornwall, in May last year.
Mrs Milligan, her husband Nick Milligan, 51, and their four children, then aged four, eight, 10 and 12, had been on holiday when they were thrown from their speedboat.
Neither Mrs or Mr Milligan were attached to the boat's kill cord - a safety device designed to cut power in an emergency - and it circled out of control at high speed, hitting them.
Mr Milligan, the managing director of Sky's advertising sales division Sky Media, and Emily sustained fatal injuries while Mrs Milligan lost the lower part of her left leg in the tragedy.
The couple's daughter Amber, then 12, suffered a cut hand, Olivia, 10, a bump to her head and four-year-old Kit had serious injuries to his leg.
In a moving article written for the Sunday Times Magazine entitled How I Survived, Mrs Milligan describes how she was trying to pull Kit to safety when she heard her daughter screaming.
"I had Kit in my arms and just presumed that we were the only ones hurt," she wrote. "There was a lot of blood in the water and my left leg was hanging off above the ankle.
"I was more worried about Kit's right foot as I could see his little white trainer floating in the water.
"I remember my 12-year-old, Amber, in the water screaming, 'Daddy's dead, Daddy's dead', her face covered in blood from her injured hand."
Mrs Milligan detailed how, until the date of May 5 2013, she had everything she had ever wanted: "a husband I adored, four beautiful children, a gorgeous house in London and a holiday home in Cornwall".
The family had travelled to Cornwall for the bank holiday and spent the day before the accident walking on Daymer Bay, swimming in the sea, eating pasties and hunting for crabs in rock pools.
Mr and Mrs Milligan also played golf at St Enodoc Golf Club, where the father-of-four told his wife: "You know this is just the start - we'll be playing this course together for years to come."
The following day, the family took their speedboat out to Padstow and ate fish and chips on the boat before driving up and down the Camel Estuary.
Mrs Milligan described her husband as "so safety conscious" and said he was attached to the boat's kill cord before playing with his children as she took the controls.
"Then he said those fateful words: 'Who wants to go round again?'," Mrs Milligan wrote. "All the kids shouted with glee: 'Me, me!'. So he told me to turn right to head back out of the estuary.
"I didn't feel that I had enough space to turn and I said so.
"He reached across me and, at the same time as pulling the steering wheel down hard to the right, he pushed the throttle up to its maximum, causing the boat to go into a steep turn, and we all found ourselves flung into the water.
"I can only presume that he was helping me to make the turn and slipped."
Mrs Milligan described how she had "never felt more helpless", with her family in "extreme danger". She heard Mr Milligan shouting to stay in the middle of the circling boat but decided to swim to shore.
She grabbed Kit and attempted to swim towards the beach but was hit by the boat's hull and propeller as it circled a second time.
Rescuers rushed into the water on canoes and watersports instructor Charlie Toogood jumped into the family's boat from another speedboat and managed to stop the engine.
"I remember the most basic of all human instincts, survival, kicking in," Mrs Millligan wrote. "Lying in the water, dipping into unconsciousness having lost a lot of blood, I was figuring out how I was going to look after the children on my own: I'd put the house on the market, buy a smaller one.
"It still surprises me how strong that practical survival instinct is."
Mrs Milligan and her three surviving children were taken by RAF helicopter to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth. Her lower left leg was amputated, while Kit underwent surgery to save his leg.
He has since had 12 further operations and wore a metal external fixator on his leg for nine months.
Mr Milligan and Emily are buried at St Enodoc Church, with the inscription on their headstones reading: "As is a tale, so is life: not how long is is, but how good it is, is what matters."
An inquest into their deaths is to take place at Truro Coroner's Court tomorrow.
Mrs Milligan has helped raise £750,000 for Child Bereavement UK, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Cornwall Air Ambulance.
To donate visit milliganbikeride.com.