Segway owner Jimi Heselden died at the age of 62 on Sunday after riding his Segway Personal Transporter off a cliff in the U.K.
The engineering company tycoon tumbled into the River Wharfe while driving his self-balancing scooter on his estate in northern England, according to the BBC, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
In 1990, Hesleden founded Hesco Bastion, a company based in Leeds, England, that makes protective fortification barriers used by both military and humanitarian aid organizations. Hesco Bastion acquired Segway in late 2009.
"It is with great sadness that we have to confirm that Jimi Heselden OBE, has died in a tragic accident near his home in West Yorkshire," said a note posted on the Web sites of both companies on Monday.
Dr. Mary Pat McKay, a professor of emergency medicine and public health at the George Washington University, told MSNBC on Monday that the emergency room admission rate for Segway riders is higher than pedestrians struck by cars. Kay said George Washington University Hospital had seen 41 Segway-related injuries between April 2005 and 2008, 10 of which led to hospital admission and 4 of which led to intensive care unit admission.
Segway accidents aren't specifically reported by government traffic safety organizations but falls from the two-wheeled scooters are documented, often insensitively, in several hundred videos on YouTube and other video sharing sites. The company's public position on its scooters has been to support rider training and safety.
Segway itself continues to be the target for lawsuits over injuries, most of which have been dismissed and/or settled. The U.S. government's Pacer legal database lists only one open civil case against the company, an injury complaint filed in June. The majority of the civil cases against the company were filed in 2006, 2007, and 2008, following a major recall.
On September 14, 2006, Segway issued a voluntary recall of 23,500 scooters, in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. A company press release at the time stated that "[t]he personal transporter can unexpectedly apply reverse torque to the wheels, causing the rider to fall." The company also recalled 6,000 scooters in 2003.
The risk of injury on a Segway Personal Transporter, like any vehicle, can be greatly reduced through proper training, safety gear, and careful operation.