The current owner of the Segway company -- you know, the folks who make those funky self-balancing funky upright "personal transporters" -- has died, apparently in an accident involving one of the company's two-wheeled vehicles.
James Heselden, 62, was pulled from the River Wharfe in Northern England on Sunday, police say. Heselden was pronounced dead at the scene and a Segway vehicle was recovered from the water. He is thought to have been riding around his estate before accidentally driving off a cliff and crashing into the river.
Police believe this was a freak accident and foul play is not suspected in the millionaire's death.
I'll admit my first reaction when I saw this news was a snort of disbelief mixed with amusement, but the more I read about the story, the more tragic it seems. By all accounts James Heselden was an intriguing man, having left school at 15 to work in the mines before eventually making his fortune in defense systems that protect military bases and secure areas in war zones. He became one of Britain's richest people, and probably one of the more generous, giving away some 23 million pounds to various charities in the last few years alone.
Heselden's company had just purchased the Segway company in December.
Although he was typically reluctant to discuss his charitable donations, he spoke publicly when he set the Leeds Community Foundation in his home city:
"There are people out there who are making money and when times are good I honestly believe people have a moral obligation to use their wealth to help others.
"There are a lot of families out there who are struggling and a lot of youngsters who have grown up without role models and who can't get jobs.
"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."
My initial mental image of a cheesy Silicon Valley dotcom d-bag riding obliviously off a cliff while yapping on their Bluetooth headset was way, way off. There will surely be jokes about this story, but I hope for Mr. Heselden's sake the media chooses to cover his past work and philanthropy along with the oddball circumstances of the accident.
What do you think about this story? Be honest, did you laugh when you first heard about it?
Image via Segway