A wealthy British businessman who owns the company that makes the two-wheeled Segway people transporter has been found dead in a river in northern England after apparently falling off a cliff on one of the vehicles, police said Monday.
The body of 62-year-old James Heselden and a Segway personal transporter were found in the River Wharfe and he was pronounced dead at the scene, West Yorkshire police said.
Police said a witness had reported seeing a man fall Sunday over a 30-foot (9-meter) drop into the river near the village of Boston Spa, 140 miles (225 kilometers) north of London.
"The incident is not believed to be suspicious," police said, indicating they do not believe anyone else was involved.
Police have not revealed further details about the incident. A dozen members of Heselden's family asked for privacy Monday after placing flowers at the heavily wooded accident site, which is popular with hikers and nature lovers.
Heselden made his fortune through his firm Hesco Bastion Ltd., which developed the "Hesco" blast wall system that replaced the sand bags used to protect troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. He bought control of the Bedford, New Hampshire-based Segway LLC in December.
Hesco Bastion is based in Leeds, near the tough Halton Moor area where Heselden grew up. He left school at 15 and first worked as a coal miner before becoming a businessman and later a well known philanthropist.
Hesco Bastion said Heselden recently gave 10 million pounds ($15.9 million) to the Leeds Community Foundation, raising his total charitable giving to 23 million pounds.
"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," said Tom Riordan, the chief executive of Leeds City Council.
He described Heselden as a quiet, good-natured man who was tremendously proud of being from Leeds and who often said those who had prospered had an obligation to help others.
"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," Heselden told the Yorkshire Post earlier this year. "Life turned out pretty well for me, but I still work in the same area where I grew up and everyday I see people who for whatever reason are down on their luck."
The battery-powered Segway, which is stabilized by gyroscopes, was invented by Dean Kamen, who founded the company in 1999.