James Heselden, owner of the company that manufactures Segways, has died in an accident. The 62-year-old and his Segway were found in a river in northern England.
The Segway is a two-wheeled motorized scooter once expected to revolutionize personal transportation. That hasn't happened, in part because they're banned in many cities, including Winnipeg.
The accident is a terrible thing for Mr. Heselden, his family, and his friends.
It's certainly not going to help the company. Having the owner die while using your product puts a chill on things.
Some conspiracy theorists have begun dark mutterings about exactly how Heselden and his vehicle ended up in the river. Local police say there's no evidence of foul play.
Still, I have only one thing to say to rabid Segway fans: I told you so.
Faithful readers will recall I had my own Segway accident two years ago. I was on a press trip tour in Minneapolis, my Segway tire caught the side of a building and I was catapulted onto the sidewalk. When the screaming stopped and the blood was staunched, I was in a lovely American hospital with a pelvis that was broken in two places.
It was six or so months before I could walk properly again. I wrote about the accident because that's what I do for a living.
I quickly learned not every Segway enthusiast is filled with the milk of human kindness.
"When I told my son about your so-called accident," wrote one fan, "he said: 'Is she retarded'?? Segways are no problem unless the person on them is not real bright. Why the Free Press chooses to employ you is beyond me! Keep being stupid -- its amusing!"
Here's another, slightly gentler note:
"As a Segway owner and enthusiast, I am very curious as to what the circumstances were of your getting 'catapulted off a Segway.' I rode my Segway as a commute vehicle in Phoenix and Tempe Arizona for 21 months before it had a hardware problem and became too expensive for me to repair.
"My opinion is that it's almost impossible to crash off a Segway if it is used as described in the safety video which comes with the device, and if that is not true, I would be very sad about that.
"I am sorry that you had to suffer, and again, I wish you a full recovery and a healthy future."
And then there were the comments on my blog. Astute readers will notice I no longer have a blog, in large part because of the people who sit in their mother's basement typing anonymous bile and feeling brave and witty.
"Too bad you didn't die," was a common theme. So was: "Only an idiot falls off a Segway. Too bad you didn't die!!!!"
Of course there was also: "Your (sic) a liar and your (sic) fat and too bad you didn't die!!!"
To which I will now respond: Neener, neener, neener.
Now, I admit I have a certain rep on the travel writing circuit. In the past two years I have been evacuated from Grand Cayman island (hurricane), medevaced home from Minneapolis (the pelvis), and suffered food poisoning in China (likely the yak tongue). I also visited northwest Florida and, coincidentally I'm sure, it was so cold the water in my hotel's fountain froze solid.
This is irrelevant.
Segway fans will defend the machines to the death, so to speak. An Associated Press story yesterday quoted the owner of a Minneapolis Segway rental joint. He claimed there have been no serious injuries in the seven years since he'd owned his company.
"Serious" is apparently open to interpretation. Unable to walk seemed serious to me. Maybe I'm just the sensitive type.
Segway fans, save your ire. Cap your crayon box and give your thumbs a rest. I know your Segway has enhanced your life, helped the environment and possibily helped Lassie save little Timmy from the well.
I also know hell would freeze over before I'd get back on one.