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Tributes to Segway boss Jimi Heselden after cliff fall

27 September 10 17:57
Segway scooter

Tributes have been paid to the head of the Segway company who died after apparently falling from a cliff while riding one of the two-wheeled scooters.

Jimi Heselden OBE, 62, a former miner who left school at the age of 15, made an estimated £160m fortune through his Leeds-based company Hesco Bastion.

The firm developed the "blast wall" basket which protects soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mr Heselden was said to be an "amazing man" who gave millions to charity.

The married father crashed into the River Wharfe while riding the scooter on his estate in Thorp Arch, Boston Spa, West Yorkshire, on Sunday.

He was pronounced dead at the scene. The scooter was found in the water.

The tycoon grew up in the Halton Moor area of Leeds and worked down the local pits until he lost his job in a wave of redundancies in the 1980s.

Years later he created hundreds of jobs in the city when his firm developed the flat-pack wire mesh "blast wall" baskets, which have been used to protect soldiers in every major conflict since the first Gulf War.

They are also used for a range of non-military functions including flood management and erosion control.

Mr Heselden led a British team which struck the deal to buy Segway in December last year.

The firm was started by inventor Dean Kamen in 1999 after he developed the electric two-wheeled, self-balancing vehicle.

During his lifetime Mr Heselden, who was thought to have been one of Britain's richest men, donated £23m to charities including the Leeds Community Foundation and Help for Heroes.

Sally-Anne Greenfield, chief executive of the community foundation, said: "He was the kind of person that people call salt of the earth.

"He did not have any airs and graces and was not giving the money to gain publicity or to boast about his success, but just because he wanted to make a difference.

"Born and brought up in Halton, and with his company being based in south Leeds, Jimi was really keen to support local issues, particularly those that help people who might be struggling."

Bryn Parry, chief executive and co-founder of Help for Heroes, said: "Jimi has been supporting Help for Heroes since September 2008 and was personally committed to giving the best support to 'the blokes', the men and women of the armed forces.

"His support was unassuming but very effective and he shared in many of our projects and fundraising events, most recently the Heroes Concert.

"His contribution to Headley Court [rehabilitation unit], in particular, will stand as a lasting legacy to his memory and we will continue to work to achieve the best for our 'blokes' in his memory."

Mr Heselden and his firm worked with Leeds City Council on several projects over recent years.

The council's chief executive Tom Riordan said: "Jimi was an amazing man who, apart from being a wonderful success story for Leeds due to his business acumen, was also remarkably selfless and generous, giving millions to local charities to help people in his home city.

"He will be hugely missed and at this awful time our thoughts are with his family and friends."

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