Tragedy hero plays down his leap into runaway speedboat

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A water skiing instructor who jumped into a runaway speedboat to try and save the lives of a young family it had struck has said his thoughts will be with them for a “long time to come”.

Charlie Toogood, 32, leapt from his own boat into the craft to turn off its engine and prevent further harm during the tragedy near Padstow, Cornwall, on Sunday.

Nick Milligan, 51, the managing director of Sky’s advertising sales division, Sky Media, was declared dead at the scene in Padstow with his daughter, Emily.

His wife, Victoria, 39, and the couple’s other children Amber, 12, Olivia, 10 and Kit, four, were also injured by the speedboat as it circled at high speed.

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.

Yesterday, Mr Toogood, who had volunteered with the RNLI at Rock lifeboat station for eight years until 2011, said in a statement released through the charity: “There were many ‘heroes’ in this tragic incident, all of whom did a remarkable job in difficult circumstances.

“However, now is a time solely to reflect on the bereaved and injured family members and their wider family and friends.

“My thoughts are with all of them and will be for a long time to come.”

Father-of-four Nick Milligan, described as an “extremely loving father, husband, son and brother, who doted on his family” by his brother, Max, had been in Cornwall with his wife and children for the bank holiday weekend.

The accident happened in the Camel Estuary near Padstow shortly before 4pm.

People enjoying the sunshine in the popular harbour area watched in horror as the incident unfolded just half a mile offshore.

Emergency operators received their first call at 3.48pm, with more calls following 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.

Mrs Milligan and son Kit, four, remain in hospital with “serious, potentially life changing injuries”, while Amber and Olivia suffered minor injuries.

Speaking after the tragedy, Detective Superintendent Jim Colwell paid tribute to those who rushed to the aid of the family in the water. “Without the brave and valiant efforts of local people and holidaymakers in the minutes immediately after this incident in assisting the family while they were in the water... I am confident this incident would have been far worse in terms of overall death toll.”

Mr Toogood, who runs Camel Ski School in the nearby village of Rock during the summer, was also praised by Matt Pavitt of North Cornwall Coastguard.

“Purely and simply I think he realised the severity of the situation,” he said.

The British-built Cobra Rib, which was owned by the family and can reach speeds of up to 50mph, has been taken away for investigation.

At a Press conference on Monday, 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.

Devon and Cornwall police are investigating the incident with the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB).

Mr Milligan’s brother, Max, led tributes to the father and his daughter, Emily.

“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,” he said.