U.S. publishing boss killed in “terrible” speedboat crash in Italy

U.S. publishing executive Adrienne Vaughan has died in a horrific boating accident off Italy’s Amalfi Coast, her company said Friday.

Vaughan, 45, was president of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc., publisher of the Harry Potter series.

“Adrienne Vaughan was a leader of dazzling talent and infectious passion and had a deep commitment to authors and readers,” said the association’s board chair, Julia Reidhead, and its president and CEO, Maria A. Pallante, in a joint statement. “Most of all she was an extraordinary human being, and those of us who had the opportunity to work with her will be forever fortunate.”

The rented motorboat Vaughan and her family were on during a vacation to the popular tourist destination crashed into a sailboat Thursday, Italian state TV said, knocking her into the water, where according to witnesses she was struck repeatedly by the motorboat’s propeller.  

Adrienne Vaughan with her husband and two children in Rome in photos posted on August 2 2023, the day before the boating accident that killed her.

A video of the incident published by the New York Post showed guests on the sailboat partying at the moment the speedboat hit, with one woman asking, “What happened?” 

“This boat, it collided with us,” a man responds frantically, before running across the deck.

Moments later, another man looks over the edge: “Jesus Christ,” he says. “She needs help,” says another guest.

“The sailboat was going straight ahead and so was the [motor]boat,” Pietro Iuzzolino, a barman who at the moment of impact was making cocktails aboard the sailboat, told Italian newspaper Corriere del Mezzogiorno. “Then suddenly [the motorboat] veered 180 degrees: there was a collision and I heard a very loud bang.

“I saw the woman in the water being held up by her children and her husband: she didn’t have an arm and the nape of her neck was white, as if blood was not flowing. It was terrible.”

Vaughan was pulled out of the water and brought to a dock but died by the time a helicopter ambulance arrived, state TV said.  

The Italian coast guard office in Amalfi is investigating the crash. A call to its office wasn’t answered, nor was there a response to an emailed request to the Coast Guard for details.

The victim’s husband was hospitalized with a shoulder injury while the couple’s two young children were uninjured, according to the reports.

No one aboard the sailboat, which had more than 80 U.S. and German tourists and the crew members on board, was injured.

A blood test for the skipper of the motorboat tested positive for substance use, reported Italian news agency ANSA, which didn’t indicate whether the result indicated alcohol or drug consumption.

Sailboat barman Iuzzolino said the skipper was “vomiting”, adding “we got the impression he was drunk.”

The skipper, an Italian about 30 years old, suffered a broken pelvis and ribs, ANSA said.

There was no answer at the courthouse in the southern of port city of Salerno, where prosecutors are overseeing the investigation.

When the motorboat crashed, it had been headed to Positano, one of the most popular destinations along the Amalfi Coast, Italian media said.

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