Nicholas Milligan

Nicholas Milligan

Nicholas Milligan’s family’s propeller accident at Padstow Harbor generated a tremendous amount of interest in boat propeller safety issues and particularly in the use of kill cords.

To place the Milligan accident and the current level of interest in a proper and historical perspective, we wrote a History of Propeller Safety issues in the United Kingdom (Great Britain / England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland).

As part of that effort, we sorted through thousands of boat propeller accident reports in our databases, news reports, and other sources in an effort to identify more prominent, higher profile boat propeller accidents in the UK.

We identified many early events that have echoed in the more recent past. For example, Heddon Johnson came back again as a propeller safety advocate after loosing his son over a decade ago, several more recent victims and family members are engaging as propeller safety advocates (Cian Williams and his mother, Simon Hutton, Maurice Abrahams, ….), some are still independently in the news (Stef Reid as a Para Olympian, and Mick Ward as a Para-Equestrian competitor), organizations and entities have begun to speak out (Isle of Wight Coroner, RYA, Maritime and Coast Guard), new propeller safety organizations are being formed (Put Cages on Boat Propellers), and the Internet is abuzz with kill cord discussions in the wake of the Milligan accident.

UK Propeller Safety History – a 21 Page pdf

UK History of Boat Propeller Safety

UK History of Boat Propeller Safety

We have since created an interactive timeline from early 2011 – June 2013 you might also find interesting at UK Propeller Safety Interactive Timeline


Our Thoughts After Writing the UK History of Boat Propeller Safety

As we reviewed many of the more prominent UK boat propeller accidents we began to recognize a few patterns and ideas beyond the current obsession with kill cords.

  • Several accidents involve UK citizens outside of the UK, often on holiday to water tourism areas in less developed parts of the world. Several of these families have found it difficult to learn what really happened to their loved one or to achieve any sort of closure / justice as foreign governments appear to be stonewalling their inquiries in the interest of tourism dollars and people in powerful positions (McCall, Gallagher, Ciedri, etc.).
  • Narrowboats / canal boats may be over represented in the accident counts (happen more frequently per boat than other boat types). This may be due to novice operators, insufficient training, or other issues similarly seen in the U.S. houseboat rental industry.
  • A few propeller accidents may be the result of criminal activities or intent.
  • While I remember many of these accidents once we read about them again, I had forgotten about them as more recent accidents have taken their place in my mind. I suspect that will be true of others who follow these accidents as well.
  • We noticed boat propeller accidents receive much more press coverage in the UK than in the U.S.
  • We were reminded how long things can drag out over propeller accidents in less developed countries around the world trying to protect their tourism dollars or people in powerful positions. The fatality of two year old Paul Gallagher August 2002 is an example. His family fought the Bahaman government for at least six years and never felt their son’s death was thoroughly investigated. The 2000 Kirsty MacColl fatality and the 2005 Alexandra Ciardi accents are also examples.
  • As in the U.S., during emergencies it is often difficult to accurately coordinate accident locations (for law enforcement and on water rescue crews / lifeboats) and injured party pickup points (for ambulances and life flight helicopters) with emergency services. The severity of boat propeller injuries often creates a short time window for victims to be successfully transported to trauma care unit and survive. Confusion on locations has cost lives.

Media Coverage of Boat Propeller Accidents

Some of the more recent accidents have received a tremendous amount of press in the UK. Many of the major outlets ran multiple feature stories. Among recent UK accidents receiving heavy media coverage were:

  • 18 December 2000 Kirsty MacColl
  • August 2000 Stef Reid has received a lot of press after her accident due to her involvement in Paralympic sports and other activites.
  • 10 August 2005 Alexandra Ciardi
  • 11 September 2010 Mari-Simon Cronje
  • 20 July 2012 Charlie Hutton
  • 11 August 2012 Cian Williams
  • 5 May 2013 Nicholas Milligan and family
  • 27 May 2013 Madaline Cole

Photographs of some victims of UK high profile propeller accidents:

Paul Gallagher

Paul Gallagher

Cian Williams

Cian Williams

Kirsty MacColl

Kirsty MacColl

Stef Reid

Stef Reid

Mari-Simon Cronje

Mari-Simon Cronje

Madaline Cole

Madaline Cole


We welcome your comments and especially any help you can provide in correcting errors and omissions in our UK History of the Boat Kill Cord and Propeller Safety Movement.

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