A mother and her three children are being treated in hospital for serious injuries following a speedboat accident which killed her husband and daughter.
Nick Milligan, 51, the managing director of Sky’s advertising sales division, Sky Media, was declared dead at the scene in Padstow, Cornwall, yesterday afternoon.
His 39-year-old wife Victoria, their four-year-old son Kit and two daughters Amber, 12, and Olivia, 10, were airlifted to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth with a range of injuries, described by police as “life threatening” and “life changing”.
The family were on holiday in the picturesque coastal town when they were thrown from the speedboat which went “out of control” and struck them.
The family, from London, was in Cornwall for the Bank Holiday weekend when the accident happened in the Camel Estuary near Padstow shortly before 4pm.
The popular harbour area was bristling with people enjoying the sunshine who watched the accident unfold just half a mile off the shore.
Witnesses claimed heroic actions by passers-by prevented more lives being lost.
Writing on Facebook, Maria Chase said: “We were down in Padstow today and saw the tragedy and saw a hero who saved more lives by jumping on to an out-of-control speedboat from another boat.”
In footage recorded by a witness and shown on the BBC, the speedboat is seen going around in circles before someone intervenes.
Charlotte Jacobs took to Twitter to write to the RNLI, saying: “We witnessed incredible bravery in Padstow today during the tragic accident that unfolded. The men involved deserve medals.”
Locals have expressed their shock at the tragic events.
Chef Paul Ainsworth wrote on Twitter: “Very sad day in Padstow, our hearts go out to all family and friends involved. Life can be so cruel.”
Celebrity chef Rick Stein, who has four restaurants in Padstow, tweeted: “Our thoughts are with injured and bereaved involved in the tragic accident in Padstow this afternoon.”
999 operators received their first call from a mobile phone at 3.48pm and were inundated with more calls seconds later.
Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokeswoman Jo Rawlings said: “There were reports that six people had been thrown off a speedboat, and that the speedboat was out of control for a short time.”
A major search and rescue operation was launched involving RNLI lifeboats from Rock and Padstow, helicopters from RNAS Culdrose and RNB Chivenor and coastguard rescue teams from Newquay, St Merryn and Polzeath.
The man and girl who died are yet to be formally identified, but their next of kin have been informed.
Ms Rawlings added: “It has been a busy day for the area around Padstow, it’s been nice weather and a Bank Holiday weekend, a lot of visitors have descended on the coast.”
The police force has launched an investigation and the boat, which was owned by the family, has been taken away for examination.
Supt Colwell said the boat is privately owned by the family.
He said: “It is a tragic incident, and is subject to a police inquiry supported by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.
“Witness accounts will form essential lines of inquiry, and we will be submitting information to the coroner’s officer in due course.”
He also told the BBC in a separate interview: “The circumstances leading up to it, what caused the occupants to enter the water, will be examined over the coming days and weeks.”
Consideration of what the boat was doing at the time of the incident, and a mechanical examination of it, would also feature in the investigation.
He praised the agencies involved in the rescue operation.
“I have to thank them for the work that was done, in very difficult and distressing circumstances. The agencies responded really effectively. This is a tragic incident, but it could have been worse.”