WARNING: Confronting content.
The president of Bloomsbury USA publishing house was killed in front of her husband and two young children when their speedboat smashed into a sailing ship off the coast of Italy.
Adrienne Vaughan, 44, whose company is best known for the “Harry Potter” books, was launched on impact into the water Thursday, where she landed between the hulls of the two vessels and was fatally struck by the speedboat’s propeller, according to local media reports, New York Post reported.
A harrowing video filmed by a wedding party guest on the struck sailing ship shows swimsuit-clad revellers dancing to the Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody” when chaos erupts.
“What happened?” one woman asks, as a horrified-sounding man replies: “This ship collided with us!”
“Jesus Christ,” another man cries out as the music stops and people rush to look over the sides, seeing Vaughan’s teen daughter bobbing in the waves amid debris.
Others then saw the New York-based publishing president in the water being supported by her husband and children, according to Pietro Iuzzolino, a bartender on the rammed sailing ship “Tortuga.”
“She didn’t have an arm and the nape of her neck was white, as if no blood was flowing,” he told the Italian newspaper Corriere del Mezzogiorno.
“It was terrible.”
Vaughan’s husband, Mike White, was also injured.
He was transported to a hospital in Castiglione di Ravello, where he underwent surgery on his left shoulder, the local reports said.
Their children – Leanna, 14, and Mason, 11 – were not physically harmed but treated for shock, the reports said.
The speedboat driver, only identified as a 30-year-old man, was also hospitalised with injuries to his ribs and pelvis — and allegedly failed toxicology tests after the crash, according to Italian news agency ANSA.
“We got the impression he was drunk,” said Iuzzolino, the bartender, who saw the speedboat driver vomiting after the crash.
Vaughan and her family arrived in Italy earlier this week. Less than 24 hours before tragedy struck, her husband shared photos of the family joyfully posing at landmarks all over Rome, including the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.
“Enjoy!” several loved ones wrote in comments.
After a short stay in Italy’s capital, the family travelled south, arriving in the iconic seaside resort town of Positano on the Amalfi coast near Naples.
On Thursday, Vaughan and her family chartered the 29-foot speedboat with a skipper from the town of Nerano and were touring the breathtaking Furore fjord, when the vessel made an unexpected 180-degree turn and slammed into the 130-foot “Tortuga,” local media said.
The larger craft was carrying 85 people, including German and American tourists, who were celebrating a wedding.
Iuzzolino said he was making a cocktail when he heard what he described as a “loud bang” — and then saw Vaughan and her family struggling in the waves.
Vaughan was rescued from the water and taken to shore, where first responders fought to save her life by performing CPR.
A medical helicopter was later summoned to the scene to airlift the gravely injured tourist, but she died before she could be taken to a hospital, local reports said.
The sailing ship’s 55-year-old captain tested negative for drugs and alcohol, according to local reporting.
Vaughan became president of the prestigious Bloomsbury USA in September 2021, after serving as executive director and COO for a year.
A graduate of NYU Stern School of Business with an MBA in finance, Vaughan previously worked as an executive for the Disney publishing group.
Bloomsbury USA did not immediately respond to messages Friday.
White and Vaughan both studied business at William & Mary and got married in November 2008.
White has served as vice president of finance at the publishing company Scholastic for more than 13 years.
The couple and their children are seasoned international travellers: less than three weeks ago, they’d jetted off to London, and in April they had vacationed in the Bahamas, where they swam with dolphins and fed sea lions.
This article originally appeared on NY Post and was reproduced with permission