Much-praised tycoon killed in 'Segway accident' - Home News - UK - The Independent

Much-praised tycoon killed in 'Segway accident'

A millionaire businessman who died when a Segway scooter built by his own company plunged over a cliff and into a river was a "much-loved father and husband", his family said today.

Jimi Heselden, 62, was found in the River Wharfe at Boston Spa, near Wetherby, yesterday morning and died at the scene.



It appeared Mr Heselden, whose company builds and markets the Segway upright scooter, accidentally drove over a cliff into the river. It is understood one of the machines was found nearby.



Members of his family, many of whom paid an emotional visit to the scene of the accident this afternoon, described their grief at Mr Heselden's death.



A family spokesman said: "Our family has been left devastated by the sudden and tragic loss of a much-loved father and husband.



"While we have been touched by the many kind tributes to his life and career, some of the speculation as to cause of his death has been deeply upsetting. There is absolutely nothing to suggest it was anything other than a tragic accident.



"The exact circumstances of the accident are still being clarified and will, of course, be the subject of an inquest.



"We would once again like to thank Jimi's many friends and colleagues for their help and condolences at this very distressing time for the family."



There was little evidence of the accident today in the remote wooded area next to the River Wharfe, which is not far from the tycoon's estate in the countryside to the north east of Leeds.



One area of the woodland path at the top of cliff faces on the river's banks - which is accessible from a public bridleway - is particularly uneven with a sheer drop of around 30ft down to the river.



The heavily wooded area, which is popular with walkers, has areas of relative flat before being broken by various tree roots and branches.



Mr Heselden made his fortune when his Leeds-based firm Hesco Bastion developed the "blast wall" basket, which protect soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, as a replacement for traditional sandbags.



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



Mr Heselden was as well-known for his charity giving as he was for his massive fortune and tributes poured in for him from various sectors.



Tom Riordan, the chief executive of Leeds City Council, said: "We are all devastated and saddened to hear of the tragic death of Jimi Heselden OBE.



"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."



Staff and trustees of the Leeds Community Foundation said they were deeply saddened by today's news.



They said the foundation has been working closely with Mr Heselden since 2008 when he made a £10 million donation to set up the Hesco Bastion Fund.



He went on to donate a further £13 million to the fund, which supports local projects in east and south Leeds, major health initiatives and Army-linked projects.



Chief executive Sally-Anne Greenfield said: "It was a real privilege to have got to know Jimi over the past few months.



"He was the kind of person that people call salt of the earth. He did not have any airs and graces and was not giving the money to gain publicity or to boast about his success, but just because he wanted to make a difference."



Ms Greenfield said Mr Heselden, who had humble beginnings in the Halton Moor area of Leeds after leaving school at 15 and working down the local pits, was keen to support local issues and when asked why he gave, replied: "I have done well in business and feel a duty to put something back and it makes me feel good to know I can help other people."



He brought hundreds of jobs to the Leeds area with the revolutionary protection baskets made by Hesco Bastion since 1990.



The "concertainer" units have been used to protect soldiers in every major conflict since the first Gulf War and is seen as one of the UK's most successful defence exports.



They are also used for a range of non-military functions including flood management and erosion control.



Bryn Parry, chief executive and co-founder of Help for Heroes, called Mr Heselden the organisation's "greatest benefactor" and added: "Jimi has been supporting Help for Heroes since September 2008 and was personally committed to giving the best support to 'the blokes' - the men and women of the armed forces.



"His support was unassuming but very effective and he shared in many of our projects and fundraising events, most recently the Heroes Concert."



Mr Heselden struck the deal to buy Segway in December last year. The firm was started by inventor Dean Kamen in 1999 after he developed the electric two-wheeled, self-balancing vehicle.



The Leeds tycoon had a fortune reported to be £166 million, making him one of the 400 richest people in the UK.



A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police today confirmed Mr Heselden was pronounced dead yesterday after being pulled from the river.



He added the incident is not believed to be suspicious and the coroner has been informed.

Suggested Topics
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week