The British owner of the Segway company, who had purchased the company less than a year ago, in December 2009, from inventor Dean Kamen, has died in a freak accident, driving the vehicle off a cliff. Jimi Heselden was 62.
Heselden was reportedly using the Segway to inspect the grounds of his property, when he plunged off a cliff and into the River Wharfe. He was using a special ruggedized country version of the Segway. The only word that could be used to describe such an accident, with the Segway transporter, which was designed to be safe and (more or less) un-tippable, is ironic.
A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police said:
"Police were called at 11.40AM yesterday (Sunday) to reports of a man in the River Wharfe, apparently having fallen from the cliffs above. A Segway-style vehicle was recovered. He was pronounced dead at the scene. At this time we do not believe the death to be suspicious."
Heselden was worth around $265 million and ranked 395th on the Sunday Times Rich List. Most of his fortune came as the result of his defense company Hesco Bastion. In 1990, he invented a new concertina-style design for wire cage walls, called the Concertainer. Originally designed to help prevent land erosion. However, the designed was adapted for military use.
Although wealthy, he was also generous. An ex-miner, he always remembered his poor beginnings. Two years ago, he founded the Leeds Community Foundation in his home city with a £10million donation, which he followed with a £3million donation in 2009 and another £10million last week.
In a statement, Hesco Bastion said:
"It is with great sadness that we have to confirm that Jimi Heselden OBE has died in a tragic accident near his home in West Yorkshire. Jimi was chairman of Hesco Bastion Ltd, the world leading manufacturer of protective barriers, and owner of Segway Inc.
"Jimi is perhaps best known for his charity work with Help for Heroes and the Leeds Community Foundation. A £10m gift to the foundation earlier this month saw his lifetime charitable donations top £23m. Our thoughts go out to his family and many friends, who have asked for privacy at this time."
The Segway is a two-wheeled, self-balancing electric vehicle invented by Dean Kamen. It was first unveiled on December 3, 2001.
Users lean forward to go forward, lean back to go backward, and turn by using a handlebar, leaning it left or right. Although once touted as revolutionary, it never achieved more than niche use, such as for postal service workers or security guards (or even police).
It did appear on the television show "Arrested Development," as the vehicle of choice for Gob Bluth. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also owns one. However, it was also listed as one of Time's 50 Worst Inventions.