The whole country was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the terrible speedboat accident which killed BSkyB executive Nick Milligan and his daughter Emily and seriously injured his wife Victoria and their son Kit near Padstow. This is not the first accident of this nature and regrettably it is unlikely to be the last as current boating laws appear to be inadequate.
In the UK you do not currently need any licence, training or experience to drive a speedboat at sea, propellers are not guarded, there is no requirement for third party insurance and you are not required to wear a kill cord, a cord which is attached to the driver and the engine to ensure that should the driver be thrown from the boat the engine will be cut out. In the Milligan’s case, investigations have found that although the boat was fitted with a kill cord it was not worn by the driver. This resulted in the boat continuing to circle out of control when the passengers had been pitched out and it was at this time that the tragic injuries were caused by the unguarded propellers.
Upon seeing details of this accident on the news, other families who have also lost members or suffered serious injuries as a result of similar accidents are calling for better regulation and law with the use of speedboats. Mr Heddon Johnson who sadly lost his son Tristan Douglas-Johnson in September 2000 has started a specific campaign for the use of kill cords to be mandatory. His online petition can be signed at www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/the-british-government-legislate-that-the-use-of-kill-cords-in-powerboats-be-obligatory Cian Williams, a 14 year old from Wales who suffered a severe leg injury from the propeller of a speedboat he was trying to climb back into is calling for propellers to be properly guarded as they are in some states of the US. The family of Rebecca Coles a 19 year old who almost lost her life and has been left with lifelong injuries are urging for drivers of such boats to be properly licensed.
It is clear from the devastation all these families have suffered that the current laws are not sufficient. It has been proven how dangerous these boats are and there are simple measures which could be implemented to increase the safety of their use. The fact that there is also no requirement to have third party insurance is alarming. Essentially, this means that if an innocent party is injured by the negligent driver or owner of the boat that their chances of successfully claiming compensation would be limited even if they could establish they were at fault. The injuries caused in these types of accidents don’t tend to be minor scratches; they are life changing injuries where compensation can help with the cost of rehabilitation and care that is often required. It can be invaluable in getting injured people’s lives back on track and if it is not available, they will then have to rely upon the state and are unlikely to make as good a recovery as they otherwise would.
Hopefully the government will consider these families’ entreaties before anyone else is so catastrophically injured or another life is lost.
Harris Fowler has a team of specialist personal injury solicitors who can offer advice to anyone injured in a boating accident. Free and confidential legal advice is available on 0800 213 214 or visit our website harrisfowler.co.uk
Harris Fowler is a trading name of Harris Fowler Limited and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority no. 558271.