Owner of Segway company dies in accident while riding one

LONDON — A businessman who bought the company that makes the Segway scooter died from a fall off of a cliff in northern England, apparently while riding one of the vehicles on his estate.

West Yorkshire police said in a statement that the body of Jimi Heselden, 62, had been pulled Monday from the River Wharfe near the town of Boston Spa after a call from a passerby.

Local media reports said he was believed to have lost control of his scooter Sunday on a wooded path that ran perilously close to a 30-foot drop into the river.

Heselden was a coal miner who lost his job in widespread mine closures of the mid-1980s. Using his expertise in coal-mining blast methods, he formed a company, Hesco Bastion, that manufactures protective barriers.

The barriers, known as “sand baskets,” are wire frames with liners filled with dirt, sand or rocks. They are regarded as offering greater protection against explosions than sandbags, and have been widely adopted by military all over the world since the first Gulf War. Heselden bought the Bedford, N.H.-based Segway company in December.

Heselden became well known in Yorkshire as a businessman and philanthropist who donated to local charities, and more recently to a fund to help rehabilitate injured soldiers. Tributes from local and national figures praised him as a generous local hero who never forgot his roots.

British law restricts the use of Segway, which was invented by Dean Kamen and travels at a top speed of about 12 mph, to private land. In July, a rider was prosecuted for riding one on a sidewalk.

However, the Daily Telegraph reported that Segway sales, which had reached only half the target of 40,000 vehicles last year, showed a 12 percent increase for the first six months of this year.

Janet Stobart/Los Angeles Times (MCT)