A waterskiing instructor who risked his own life by leaping onto an out-of-control speedboat to cut its engine after it had killed a father and daughter has been hailed a hero.
Witnesses lauded the intervention of Charlie Toogood who almost certainly prevented more deaths as the vessel circled in the water killing BSkyB executive Nick Milligan, 51, and eight-year-old Emily.
Four members of the Milligan family were also injured when they were all tossed overboard and struck by the boat as it continued to circle despite not having a driver.
Footage shot by eyewitnesses and aired by the BBC shows Mr Toogood’s vessel manoeuvring alongside the Milligan’s boat and Mr Toogood jumping from one boat to the other.
It is believed Mr Toogood, 32, managed to throw a rope round the propeller to slow the boat down before leaping across and taking the wheel.
Detective Superintendent Jim Colwell said: “Without the brave and heroic efforts of local people and holidaymakers in the minutes immediately after this incident in assisting the family whilst they were in the water, if people hadn’t come to their assistance, I’m confident that this incident would have been far worse in terms of the overall death toll.”
Matt Pavitt, from the North Cornwall Coastguard, said two kayakers and at least three other vessels went to the aid of the family “within minutes”, while one man who went to help was named as Will Jones.
“One of the kayakers actually managed to manoeuvre their kayak in between the boat while it was still circling to provide aid to some people incredibly quickly,” he said.
Mr Milligan, who was managing director of Sky’s advertising sales division, Sky Media, was on holiday with his family when the incident happened. His 39-year-old wife, Victoria, and their four-year-old son, Kit, remain in hospital with “serious, potentially life-changing injuries”, while their other daughters Amber, 12, and Olivia, 10, suffered minor injuries.
Officials are now assessing whether the boat had a “kill cord”, which is attached to the driver and is designed to cut the fuel supply if the driver falls overboard; and if the boat did have the safety device, why it failed to work.
Grieving relatives paid tribute to Nick and Emily Milligan yesterday. His brother, Max, said Mr Milligan, known as “Nico”, was an “extremely loving father, husband, son and brother, who doted on his family”. He added: “As children and teenagers we spent many summers and New Year’s Eves at New Polzeath here in Cornwall and a few years ago he built his dream home above Daymer Bay.
“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. I’d like to thank Devon and Cornwall Police and all the staff at Derriford Hospital who have been incredible over the last few days.”