Segway Disaster Kills Owner, More Deadly Inventions
When Jimi Heselden rode his Segway off a cliff, he became the latest in a long line of unfortunates done in by their own product. The Daily Beast rounds up seven more, from the Glider King to the flying taxi inventor.
Jimi Heselden was, by all accounts, a fine man. He rose from the coal mines in Britain to become one of the country’s richest men and most generous philanthropists. And yet, by an unfortunate twist of fate, he may be most remembered for how he died: The owner of Segway Company, Heselden passed on Sunday after accidentally riding one of the two-wheeled vehicles off a cliff. He’s not the first person in history to be done in by his own product. The Daily Beast looks at inventors done in by their own inventions. (Heselden, it should be noted, simply owned Segway Co.; the Segway’s inventor, Dean Kamen, is alive and well.)
Perillos of Athens
The Brazen Bull is one of history’s more twisted inventions: A hollow brass statue in the shape of a bull, the ancient Greeks would lock a condemned man inside of it and heat it until it was “yellow hot.” Perillos of Athens invented the device—and was its first victim. According to legend, he designed it for Phalaris, the tyrant of Sicily. While demonstrating how it would work, Phalaris locked Perillos inside and lit the flame. He then removed Perillos and threw him from a hill, killing him.
As the Fourth Earl of Morton, Douglas introduced a primitive guillotine called the “maiden” to Scotland in the second half of the 16th century—a decision he must have come to regret, as he was executed by it in 1581 after he was implicated in the murder of Mary Queen of Scots’ second husband.
Bullock’s web rotary printing press was one of the devices that helped to revolutionize the publishing industry in the second half of the 19th century: It printed up to 30,000 sheets of paper an hour, according to Gizmodo. Bullock died while attempting to fix one of the presses in 1867: After it became stuck, he tried to kick a belt onto a pulley. His leg got caught in the machine and was completely crushed; he died a week later while the leg was being amputated.
Lilienthal, “the Glider King,” was the first person to make repeated, successful flights on a glider. But his luck eventually ran out in 1896, when he fell from one of his gliders from a height of 56 feet and broke his spine. Wilbur Wright would later call him “easily the most important” of aviation’s 19th-century pioneers.
In 1912, the tailor Reichelt sewed a suit for pilots that he hoped could be used as a parachute in case of an emergency. In order to test his device, he climbed to the first deck of the Eiffel Tower with a dummy and then, according to Gizmodo, switched himself in at the last minute for the dummy. The height wasn’t sufficient for the parachute to work, and Reichelt fell to his death. The brave of heart can actually watch video of Reichelt’s death.
Abakovsky’s “ aerowagon” was supposed to whisk Soviet officials around Russia in record time: It was powered with an aircraft engine and propeller traction. It successfully traveled from Moscow to Tula in 1921, but on the return trip it derailed, killing Abakovsky and everyone else on board.
Dacre hoped his eight-seat plane would be a “ flying taxi,” providing cheap and quiet travel between cities and needing only a 400-foot runway. However, Dacre was killed in 2009 while testing the device near Kuala Lumpur. After reaching a height of 650 feet, the airplane plummeted and erupted in flames. Dacre was believed to have died on impact.