How Segway multimillionaire was killed by his own politeness

Kevin Rawlinson
Saturday 16 July 2011 00:00
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The death of a multimillionaire businessman who fell off a cliff while riding his Segway scooter was probably caused by an "act of courtesy" to a fellow dog walker, a coroner said yesterday.

Jimi Heselden, who bought the European licence to the two-wheeled scooter a few years before his death, fell 42 feet from a footpath last year while apparently testing a rough-terrain model.

A witness said the 62-year-old had moved backwards, as if to let him pass, as they approached each other on a path. Mr Heselden then "disappeared from view", falling over a drop. He was found lifeless in the river below soon after the incident on 26 September.

Sean Christie, who was walking his dog on Jackdaw Crag when the incident occurred, told the coroner he saw Mr Heselden at the top of a steep incline and said the businessman appeared to be considering how to negotiate the sloping footpath on the off-road scooter he was riding.

Mr Christie said he saw the businessman move a short distance backwards in a movement he assumed was to make room for him to pass. Mr Heselden appeared to wobble and then disappeared from view, he said.

Mr Heselden, who was from the Leeds area and was a well-known philanthropist, ran a company that builds containers designed to protect troops and which lends its name to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. He had don- ated substantial sums to local charities and to Help For Heroes. He was one of the 400 richest people in the UK, with a reported fortune of £166m.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, West Yorkshire Coroner David Hinchliff called it a "shame and tragedy that such a great man should have died in this way". The solicitor acting for Mr Heselden's family, Rob Rode, said they were "proud that his spirit lives on in Jimbo's Fund, a new charitable project launched by the Leeds Community Foundation with a £23 million donation from Jimi, supporting projects that were so close to his heart," Mr Rode said.

Mr Hinchliff told Mr Heselden's family: "I think it's probable, and typical of Jimi and the type of man he was – he held back and waited as an act of courtesy to allow Mr Christie more room. In so doing, he's attempted to reverse the Segway back. As a result of that he's got into difficulty."

A post-mortem examination found that Mr Heselden died from "multiple blunt-force injuries to the chest and spine consistent with a fall while riding a gyrobike". Experts found no fault with the Segway and detectives found no evidence of any third-party involvement or foul play.

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