Segway tycoon dies in cliff fall while riding scooter

The Segway was hailed before its launch as a green transport solution of the future. One such believer in the emission-free scooter-cum-skateboard was a former Yorkshire miner turned multimillionaire philanthropist called Jimi Heselden, who last year bought the American firm which invented the self-righting two-wheeler. But in what appears to have been a freak accident, Mr Heselden has been found dead after apparently plunging 30ft over the side of a cliff while riding one of the machines he hoped would revolutionise the way we travel.

It is believed Mr Heselden was driving an off-road version of the £5,000 upright scooter on a heavily rutted path through the idyllic landscape near his home when tragedy struck. The 62-year-old's body was discovered in the River Wharfe by a walker on Sunday on the edge of his country estate at Boston Spa near Wetherby, West Yorkshire. His Segway was found near by.

A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police said the entrepreneur was pronounced dead at the scene.

"The incident is not believed to be suspicious and the coroner has been informed," he said.

Tributes were paid to the local businessman who used his redundancy payout following the 1980s miners' strike to develop the Concertainer – an adaptation of a medieval defensive system using wire baskets of earth and water which replaced sandbags as a means of protecting troops. The anti-blast device rapidly became one of Britain's most successful defence exports and helped its inventor earn a fortune of £166m and a place in the Sunday Times Rich List.

His purchase of Segway in December last year surprised observers in the UK who felt the device had more than a touch of Sir Clive Sinclair's doomed electric vehicle the C5 about it. Its intuitive controls and gyroscopic balancing systems may have appealed to technology fans but the Segway, which can be difficult to operate, initially proved a hard sell to the public and was for long dismissed as little more than a rich geek's toy. Despite attracting celebrity drivers such as Dame Helen Mirren and Dick Cheney, the Segway remains banned on British pavements and roads where it is deemed unsafe by the Department of Transport, although it can be used on private land.

Yet Mr Heselden became convinced of the potential of the inventor Dean Kamen's commuting device, launched in 1999, after commissioning research in the United States, where it is legal in many cities.

The scooter, which bears more than a passing resemblance to a golf trolley, has witnessed a surge in popularity in recent years among parking enforcement officers and university campus police, countering the negative publicity generated by George W Bush, who fell off a Segway in 2003. It is now estimated that there are 80,000 Segways in use worldwide.

In Britain, the Segway won the support of the then Tory transport spokesman Robert Goodwill as well as the Liberal Democrats' Lembit Opik. Fans of the machine are keenly awaiting the results of a pending test case. Philip Coates, 51, was charged this year under the 1865 Highways Act for riding his 12mph Segway on the pavement on his five-mile trip to work in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, and is due to return to court in November.

Earlier this month, Mr Heselden signed over a £10m cheque for the Leeds Community Foundation which channels money into disadvantaged areas in his home city.

The gift brought his lifetime donations to £23m. He had chosen to base his company, Hesco Bastion Ltd, close to his old childhood home in one of Leeds' most deprived communities.

He said recently: "Life turned out pretty well for me, but I still work in the same area where I grew up and every day I see people who for whatever reason are down on their luck."

Fatal creations

Marie Curie

The Polish-born physicist's pioneering work led to the discovery of polonium and radium. Her research earned her the Nobel Prize first in 1903 and again eight years later but she died in 1934 from leukaemia resulting from prolonged exposure to high-energy materials during her research.



Jim Fixx

In 1984 – seven years after publishing the best-selling get-fit-quick guide The Complete Book of Running – the formerly overweight journalist credited with launching the jogging craze was found dead by the side of the road near his home in New England after collapsing during a run. He was 52 and had a history of heart disease.



Franz Reichelt

The French tailor's determination to publicise his wearable parachute for aviators saw him leap from the Eiffel Tower in 1912. Having ignored friends' insistence to use a dummy, Reichelt's canopy failed to deploy and he crashed to his death. The tragedy was captured on camera by newspaper and newsreel cameramen.



Otto Lilienthal

A 19th century German pioneer of human flight and inheritor of the dream of Icarus, Lilienthal's discoveries in the field of gliding paved the way for the future success of the Wright brothers. In 1896 however he plunged 60ft to the earth during a test flight suffering a broken spine. He died the following day insisting his sacrifice had been worth it.



Henry Winstanley

The treacherous Eddystone rocks off Plymouth were feared by generations of sailors, so the creation of an illuminated wooden structure was welcomed by mariners. Winstanley had wished to be inside the lighthouse during the "greatest storm there ever was". But during terrible weather in 1703, the building collapsed and he was lost at sea.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone