MAIB Issues Kill Cord Warning After UK Milligan Accident

Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) investigates marine accidents for the United Kingdom (UK). Today, 17 May 2013, MAIB issued Safety Bulletin 1/2013 in response to the recent double fatality Nicholas Milligan accident. The family was ejected from a RIB near Padstow Harbor, Cornwall UK, at Camel Estuary, the unmanned RIB circled, and struck them repeatedly, killing two members of the family and seriously injuring two more.

The kill cord (emergency engine ignition shut-off switch cord / kill switch lanyard) was not in use at the time of the Milligan accident.

MAIB stresses this safety bulletin / warning is for safety purposes only. MAIB will issue a full investigative report on the Milligan accident at a later date.

When the driver was ejected, the boat did not stop because the kill cord was not in use.

Then follows the actual safety bulletin:

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 driver.
Further information regarding the use of kill cords can be found at


  1. A West Yorkshire company is helping boating enthusiasts to enjoy their hobby more safely – and avoid the kind of accident that claimed the life of a father and daughter.
    A father-of -four and his eight-year-old daughter died in a speedboat accident in the Camel Estuary near Padstow, Cornwall in May of this year.
    Investigations were focused on the boat’s “kill chord” – a device which cuts power to the engine should the driver go overboard. The kill cord is designed to be attached to the boat’s throttle/engine cut-off and then to either the driver’s leg or wrist, so if the driver goes overboard the cord detaches the clip and the engine cuts out. If the kill cord is merely attached to the boat and not to the driver, then if the driver goes overboard, the engine continues running and the boat does not stop. This could then result in the boat either turning in circles, and perhaps into the path of the driver and any passengers that may be in the water, or continuing in a straight line – leaving the driver in the water and becoming a dangerous, unpredictable hazard to other people and craft on the water
    There have been many incidents involving fatalities and injuries with powerboats and RIBS, and the practice of not attaching the kill cord – or not attaching and using it correctly – is a factor in a number of those incidents.
    Fastnet Marine Ltd, of Holmfirth, is the sole UK and Eire importer and distributor of an American manufactured “wireless kill switch” – the Autotether Marine.
    The unit uses cutting-edge RF technology and does not require hard wiring into the boat. Each Autotether unit can protect the boat driver and up to three passengers and allows unrestricted movement about the boat by just wearing a small, wireless sensor. If the driver falls overboard, it shuts the engine off within one-and-a-half seconds. If a passenger falls overboard while wearing a passenger sensor a loud audible alarm sounds to notify the driver.
    Tony Watson, managing director of Fastnet Marine Ltd, said: “It has now been established that the kill cord was not being worn by the driver and therefore played a major role in this particular accident, and there are now serious moves to look at legislation, education and alternatives to the normal type kill cord – which I wholeheartedly support”.
    “We believe that wireless technology is the answer and the American made units that we supply, which are CE approved, have a proven track record in the USA, Canada and other countries throughout the world”.
    Fastnet Marine is inviting enquiries (comment became a bit too commercial for us so we ended it here).

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