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Safety review call over boat deaths

A coroner has urged a review of safety following the deaths of a senior television executive and his eight-year-old daughter in a speedboat tragedy.

Nick Milligan, known as Nicko to family and friends, and Emily lost their lives in the accident on the Camel estuary at Padstow, Cornwall, on May 5 last year.

Cornwall Coroner Dr Emma Carlyon said she would be asking for a review of the level of training required for high-powered speedboats and whether it should be compulsory.

She spoke out after Mr Milligan's brother, Mark, raised his family's concerns that boats had got more powerful in the past decade and safety training in the UK was voluntary, not compulsory.

Dr Carlyon said: "I was pleased to hear of the proactive work of The Royal Yachting Association, the British Marine Federation and the Devon and Cornwall resilience forum and I am satisfied they have taken on board these learning experiences that the Marine Accident Investigation Branch have pointed out to them.

"It is my intention to write to The Royal Yachting Association to firstly thank them for their proactive work in this area but to also consider whether it might be appropriate to review the advice on the level of training required for leisure powerboats and whether it ought to be compulsory."

Following a two-day inquest in Truro, the jury returned separate conclusions that the father and daughter died as a result of an accident.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Milligan's brother, from Somerset, said: "We are pleased the inquest is complete and offer our thanks to the coroner.

"The family would like to acknowledge the bravery of all those involved in the rescue and offer our formal thanks to the witnesses who have supported this inquest.

"We would also like to thank the emergency services and the people of Cornwall who have given us great support since this tragic accident from which we hope safety lessons will be learnt."

Victoria Milligan, who did not attend the final day of the inquest, had previously told the court 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.

Eyewitnesses described seeing the family of six being thrown into the water after the speedboat suddenly turned sharply and watched helplessly as the vessel circled dozens of time at high speed - colliding with the Milligans.

Jurors also heard from water sports instructor Charlie Toogood, who heroically brought the out of control boat, called Milly, to a halt, and those who went to rescue the family.

They told how they comforted the screaming children, with one girl saying repeatedly: "My daddy's dead."

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, from their home in Wandsworth, south-west London.

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 admitted her "big mistake" was not to use the kill cord after she had taken over the helm of the boat from her husband when he went to use the toilet.

"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," she said.

"As I started to drive back to the mooring, the children all called out that they wanted to go around again.

"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.

"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.

"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."

The authors of a Marine Accident Investigation Branch report into the bank holiday weekend tragedy told the inquest that the speedboat manufacturer, APV Marine Ltd, had rejected a formal recommendation to review the design of the vessel.

Capt Mike Evans said the chief inspector of marine accidents wrote to APV Marine Ltd to recommend a review of the design of the hull of its Cobra RIB range.

"The company replied to say they were satisfied beyond doubt their old design is extremely safe in all ordinary and reasonable manoeuvres," he said.

"The chief inspector then said, 'Their reluctance to consider the modifications is disappointing in view of the circumstances'."

The investigation found that both Mr and Mrs Milligan had undergone the relevant training to operate a powerboat and knew how to use a kill cord.

But Capt Evans said the fact neither were wearing the safety device had contributed to the tragic outcome.


From Belfast Telegraph