The speedboat driver wasn't wearing a kill cord, says MAIB report

The importance of using a kill cord when driving a powerboat has been highlighted by a report into a fatal accident in Cornwall.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has published the safety message following the family tragedy, which killed two people and seriously injured two others earlier this month.

The preliminary report states that the family of six – two adults and four children – were ‘ejected from an 8.0m rigid hulled inflatable boat (RHIB)’ while ‘manoeuvring the boat at speed’ on 5 May 2013, on the Camel Estuary, near Padstow.

The unmanned RHIB subsequently executed a series of tight high-speed turns, running over members of the family in the water, causing the deaths of Nick Milligan, aged 51, and his eight-year-old daughter Emily.

Mr Milligan’s 39-year-old wife Victoria and their four-year-old son Kit both suffered ‘serious, potentially life-changing injuries’.

The accident occurred at approximately 3.49pm on the Sunday of the May Bank Holiday weekend.

The MAIB has now issued a Safety Bulletin, which seeks to convey the importance of using the kill cord and to bring this safety issue to the attention of the leisure boating community ahead of the forthcoming boating season.

The report states: ‘At this early stage in the investigation, the mechanism that led to the family being ejected from the RHIB into the water, is not clear.

‘The RHIB was fitted with a kill cord, but this was not attached to the driver at the time of the accident.

‘Consequently, when the driver was ejected from the boat, the kill cord did not operate to stop the engine and the RHIB continued to circle out of control, and at speed.

‘As the RHIB circled, it ran over the family in the water a number of times, leading to the deaths and injuries.

‘A few minutes later a local boatman was able to board the RHIB and bring it under control before further people were hurt.’


The kill cord serves only one purpose, to stop the engine when the driver moves away from the controls. To ensure that this tragic accident is not repeated it is essential that all owners and operators of vessels fitted with kill cords:

  • Test them regularly to ensure that the engine stops when the kill
    cord mechanism is operated.
  • Make sure that the cord is in good condition.
  • Always attach the cord securely to the driver, ideally before the
    engine is started, but certainly before the boat is put in gear.
  • Stop the engine before transferring the kill cord to another

Click here for more information regarding the use of kill cords.

Find the report online here.

(Pictures: A boat with a kill cord in place.

(A still from a video shot by a witness which shows the moment the speedboat was brought under control.

(A kill cord being worn)