Cornwall

Cornwall speedboat deaths: Mother relives final moments

Nick Milligan holding Emily, with wife Victoria, son Kit and two other daughters Amber and Olivia Image copyright Vitty Robinson/PA
Image caption Nick Milligan and eight-year-old daughter Emily, left, were killed while his wife Victoria and son Kit were seriously injured

A woman whose husband and daughter were killed in a speedboat accident has relived the last moment she saw them.

Victoria Milligan said it felt like "hitting a wall" when the boat threw her, her husband and their four children into the water.

Emily Milligan, eight, and her father Nick died on 5 May 2013.

The inquest, held in Truro, heard Mrs Milligan was at the helm when the accident happened in the Camel Estuary near Padstow, Cornwall.

The family, from Wandsworth, south west London, had been staying at their holiday home in the area when tragedy struck.

'Stay together'

The hearing was told Mrs Milligan, who had been trained in using a powerboat, was not wearing a kill cord which would have stopped the engine when they were thrown overboard.

She told the inquest: "Nick was telling us to stay together. The boat was going around us very fast.

"I swam towards the beach. The boat hit me in my chest and I saw lots of blood.

"I knew Kit [her son] had also been injured and said 'I want to go home'. I realised I needed to get out of the water. I did not know where anybody else was."

Image copyright MAIB
Image caption The engine of the Milligans' boat Milly remained at full power after they were thrown into the water

Mrs Milligan said while still in the boat her husband reached across her to pull down on the steering wheel and simultaneously pushed up the throttle.

She told the inquest: "He reached over with his right hand and put the wheel down. With his left hand he slightly jerked up the throttle.

"That's when we all fell out - it was like hitting a wall. It all happened very quickly."

Mrs Milligan said she swam towards the harbour with her son. The two other children, Amber, 12, and Olivia, 11, suffered minor injuries.

The inquest heard the last time she saw her husband he was in the water shouting at the other three children to stay in the middle.

Image caption A passerby filmed the speedboat out of control in the Camel Estuary

The inquest heard a written statement from witness Jason Williams who described the inevitability of the fatal accident once the family were in the water.

Mr Williams, who was on the shore, said he first heard "laughing and screaming of fun and enjoyment" before the family were thrown from the speedboat.

He saw the boat go over one of the group before continuing to circle the others.

He said: "I could see what was going to happen but could not do anything to prevent it.

"The group was possibly holding on to one another. I saw the boat go over the group of five and heard the engine cough and splutter."

James Beale, who was on the beach in Padstow, told the inquest he believed the family were thrown overboard after their boat hit its own wake.

He said: "I saw the boat hit its own wake and I saw all the people in the boat being jettisoned out with a surprising amount of force."

The director of a watersports school told the inquest how he eventually stopped the speedboat which continued to circle.

Charles Toogood, director of the Camel Ski School, drove alongside the boat in the water and trailed a rope to snag the propeller.

Mr Toogood said the kill cord was still attached to the ignition when he boarded.

The inquest also heard evidence from two kayakers, James Anderson and his daughter Leigh Anderson who paddled to the scene to help the family.

Miss Anderson said: "We could hear screaming and shouting over the sound of the engine.

"One of the girls was screaming repeatedly 'My daddy's dead'."

'Unconscious almost immediately'

Earlier the hearing learned Emily Milligan was probably unconscious when she was hit by a propeller.

Home Office pathologist Russell Delaney told the inquest it was "highly likely" she was unconscious after being ejected from the speedboat.

He said Mr Milligan died from a head injury after being thrown overboard.

Mr Delaney said: "I would have expected him to be rendered unconscious almost immediately with death coming shortly afterwards."

Company director Toby Courtauld, who saw the accident, told the inquest: "The boat was going quite slowly with the tide then it accelerated and did a very sharp right turn whereupon I saw everybody come out of the boat.

"I saw it rise up on to its side and then everybody came out.

"The ejection from the boat was very aggressive - they flew out."

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