It was an unimaginable family tragedy on a day that shocked Britain.
And almost two years after the speedboat accident that killed her husband and daughter and took her left leg, Victoria Milligan, 44, reveals a resilience and drive that is nothing short of inspirational.
The personal trainer, who lives in south west London, has learned to walk again with a prosthetic limb and now admits she has channelled her grief into mastering running – and says she is even open to the prospect of finding love again.
Victoria Milligan lost her husband Nick and daughter Emily in a boat accident in 2013. Now Victoria is focused on her running with the ‘blade’ she had fitted on the lower half of her left leg
Victoria with daughters Oliver, left, who was uninjured in the crash and Amber, right, who was left with scars on her left thigh and hand
Victoria, centre, with, from left to right, Emily, Nick, Olivia, Kit and Amber. The family were on holiday in Cornwall on Nick’s speedboat when the accident occurred
Victoria, who is running a 10K race with her specially designed running blade, told FEMAIL: ‘I’m much less scared of failure now then before the accident. Life is for living.’
She was on holiday in Cornwall with her family in May 2013, when they had an outing on her husband’s boat in the Camel Estruary.
The family were thrown overboard into the water and suffered terrible injuries as the out-of-control boat circled over them at high speed.
Only Olivia, now 13, survived unscathed. Sky executive Nick, 51, and their daughter Emily, eight, died. Victoria lost the lower part of her left leg, Kit, now seven, needed 12 operations to save his right leg and Amber, now 14, was left with scars on her left thigh and hand.
Yet despite the agonising events of that day, Victoria still visits Cornwall regularly and, speaking to FEMAIL from a small village near Padstow where the accident happened, said: ‘I feel very comfortable down here, I feel their presence here.
‘The worst thing that happened in my life happened here but it was an accident, it wasn’t Cornwall or the sea’s fault.’
Victoria with Olivia, left, Amber and Kit, right, in the Cornish Air Ambulance after raising £250,000. Victoria now regularly fundraises for the organisation
In fact she feels ‘close to them’ being by the sea and still takes the children to Cornwall and even into the water.
Nick had been driving the boat with the kill cord – to stop the boat in emergencies – wrapped around his leg.
When he quickly went to the toilet, Victoria took over and hadn’t attached the cord because she presumed he would take over.
But instead when he returned he wanted to go round the water one more time and took the wheel out of Victoria’s hand.
He pulled the steering wheel down with maximum turn, maximum throttle – unaware the kill cord was not attached.
Victoria says that focusing on her body and health is a way of giving her a sense of control over life
Victoria wears a prosthetic lower left leg and despite some days being unable to wear it and struggling to get around just on crutches, she hasn’t let it stop her from learning how to compete in races
While suffering intense grief, Victoria also had to come to terms with her changed body, but she addresses with this with her typical frank understatement.
On losing her leg, she said: ‘Thank goodness, I didn’t realise just how difficult it would be at the start [to be an amputee].
‘If it had happened another day it would have been the end of my world. But my injury completely paled into insignificance.’
She has been left with grief that ‘comes and goes when you’re least expecting it.’
She said: ‘It can be anything that starts me off. I’ve learned now if I feel the waves of grief, let them wash over you because you’ll come out of it.
‘Grief is all consuming at the beginning, I know now I’m not always going to feel down, if I’m in a low it’s not going to be forever.’
She said: ‘I’ll always have thoughts and memories of them, I’m keeping them alive.’
Victoria said she’s no longer ‘putting peanut butter in the basket,’ one of Emily’s favourites, like she was a year later but she still finds herself spotting gifts she knows she would have loved.
Victoria didn’t realise how difficult it would be to be an amputee as she was focused on her loss. But she said if it had happened on a different day it would have been the ‘end of my world’
‘I never will be able to believe she’s not here,’ she said.
But Victoria admits that she is now able to enjoy moments which remind her of Emily, without being shattered by pain.
She said: ‘I can eat garlic bread now and smile, which was her favourite, when before that would have sent me to the floor in a ball crying.’
Victoria also notes that the accident had another effect on her – it removed her fear of failure. So while she has always been physically fit, she was never a keen runner.
The first thing was being fitted with her prosthetic leg and two years later she was fitted with a ‘blade’, a carbon-fibre running blade which provides the energy return needed to run.
Victoria said: ‘Walking on a prosthetic is hard enough but running is harder. You have to give yourself the confidence to put all your weight through a prosthetic.’
Victoria, who appeared on Lorraine, this month says she has lost her fear of failure since the accident
And it was a new goal which she wanted, so she challenged herself first to run one step at a time, and then to run to the edge of the road, and then to run a kilometre. Now she is taking on the 10K Cancer Research Winter Run this month.
‘For me it’s just been about very slowly getting up the confidence,’ she said. ‘I kept pushing myself through my physical barrier.’
Victoria is in the final weeks of her training and is running to raise money for Child Bereavement UK, a cause which is close to her heart after the accident.
Her son Kit has been going with her on smaller runs, and she feels lucky that he was able to have his leg saved through surgery.
I find when you’re not in control of anything that happens to you, you can be in control of your body and your health
She was holding him in the water when the boat hit so while she lost her left leg, his right leg was badly injured.
The 10K run is not an easy task for Victoria because even the slightest sore or cut on her stump can mean she has to leave the prosthetic off for days at a time, which leaves her using crutches and struggling to get around.
She said: ‘I’m so used to doing things myself, not being able to make myself a cup of tea – I’ve had to relinquish control.’
But friends and family are there ready to help out on those occasions.
Victoria has also set up a website to help other bereaved families, and is also writing a book which is part-memoir and part-advice book, but the run on January 31 is her next challenge.
For now she is far from looking for romance but she admitted that the ‘right person’ were to come along, she would be open to sharing her life with someone new.
But she said they would have to be able to take on three children as well her disability.
She said: ‘We’re not really in control of what happens in life.
‘I find when you’re not in control of anything that happens to you, you can be in control of your body and your health.’
For more information and registration visit www.winterrunseries.co.uk