Millionaire businessman killed in Segway cliff fall

A WEALTHY British businessman who owns the company that makes the two-wheeled Segway has been found dead in a river in northern England after apparently falling off a cliff on one of the vehicles, police said yesterday.

The body of 62-year-old Jimi Heselden and a Segway personal transporter were found in the River Wharfe and he was pronounced dead at the scene, West Yorkshire Police said.

Last year he led a British team which bought the United States-based Segway firm, which makes and distributes the distinctive two-wheeled, self-balancing scooters.

Police said a witness had reported seeing a man fall on Sunday over a 30-foot drop into the river near Boston Spa, 225 kilometres north of London.

It appeared Heselden had driven over the cliff into the river.

“The incident is not believed to be suspicious,” police said, indicating that they do not believe anyone else was involved.

Heselden, who bought control of the New Hampshire-based Segway company in December, made his fortune through his firm Hesco Bastion Ltd, which developed a system to replace sand bags to protect troops.

Hesco Bastion is based in Leeds, near the tough Halton Moor area where Heselden grew up. He left school at 15 and first worked as a coal miner before becoming a businessman and philanthropist.

Hesco Bastion said Heselden recently gave £10 million (€11.7m) to the Leeds Community Foundation, raising his total charitable giving to £23m (€27m).

“Jimi was an amazing man who, apart from being a wonderful success story for Leeds due to his business acumen, was also remarkably selfless and generous, giving millions to local charities to help people in his home city,” said Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council.

The battery-powered Segway, which is stabilised by gyroscopes, was invented by Dean Kamen, who founded the company in 1999.

The tycoon, who lived on an country estate north-east of Leeds, had a fortune reported to be £166m (€195m), making him one of the 400 richest people in Britain.

About a dozen family members arrived at the scene yesterday to lay floral tributes for Heselden but many were visibly shaken and too upset to speak to the press.

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