Segway scooter firm owner dies after riding off cliff

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The British owner of the firm that makes the Segway scooter died after riding one of the futuristic two-wheeled machines over a cliff and into a river, police said Monday.

The body of millionaire Jimi Heselden, 62, was discovered in the River Wharfe near his home in the town of Boston Spa in northern England on Sunday, said a spokeswoman for West Yorkshire Police.

"A Segway-style vehicle was recovered from the scene," the spokeswoman told AFP, adding that police were called to the scene after reports of a man "apparently having fallen from the cliffs above".

"The incident is not believed to be suspicious," she added.

Heselden led a British team which bought US-based Segway Inc. in December last year and now manufactures and distributes the distinctive self-balancing vehicles.

The Segway was introduced in 2002 amid great fanfare as a means of revolutionising urban transportation. They use gyroscopes, computers and electric motors to cruise to 12 miles (19 kilometres) per hour.

A former coal miner who left school at 15, Heselden made his fortune with the Hesco Bastion firm, which developed the "Hesco" blast walls that are widely used in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"It is with great sadness that we have to confirm that Jimi Heselden has died in a tragic accident near his home in West Yorkshire," Hesco Bastion said in a statement, without giving further details.

His death came a week after he became one of Britain's top philanthropists, giving 10 million pounds (11.7 million euros, 15.8 million dollars) to a charity and taking his lifetime donations to 23 million pounds, it said.

© 2010 AFP

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