THE widow of a multi-millionaire philanthropist who died in a freak accident has paid tribute to “the most generous man I have ever known.”
An inquest heard Jimi Heselden, who was 62, suffered fatal injuries after reversing his two-wheeled scooter off a cliff near his home in Thorp Arch, Wetherby.
He fell 42ft on to the banks of the River Wharfe after attempting to move out of the way to let a fellow dog walker past.
The former miner, who started the Hesco Bastion company making military defences, was said to be worth £166m and was renowned for his charitable donations.
In a statement, read out at Leeds Coroner’s Court yesterday, his widow Julie said his loss had devastated the family.
She added: “He was a larger than life character with the biggest and most generous heart of any man I have ever known.”
Mrs Heselden said her husband, who grew up as one of seven children in Halton Moor, never forgot his humble beginnings and wanted to look after his community.
He funded an annual Christmas dinner for pensioners, gave money to a local children’s hospice and supported Help for Heroes. He gave £23m to the Leeds Community Foundation to launch Jimbo’s Fund, supporting projects in Leeds.
Mrs Heselden added: “At his funeral an American gentleman recounted how Jimi had been in Washington and had seen a homeless man with no coat on.
“He gave him his coat along with some money for a hot meal.”
The inquest heard how father-of-five Mr Heselden invented the ‘concertainer’ box to store materials for a chimney-cleaning company he set up in the 1980s. The Ministry of Defence then approached him to use the device in battle zones.
He founded Hesco Bastion in Cross Green because he wanted to employ local people. It makes the ‘blast wall’ basket, which replaced sandbags as protection for soldiers.
Camp Bastion, the British military base in Afghanistan, was named after the firm.
Mr Heselden was on a Segway – a two-wheeled motorised scooter – walking his Labrador at Jackdaw Crag, off Deepdale Lane, near Boston Spa, on the morning of September 26 last year.
The inquest heard how another dog walker, Sean Christie, was walking up a path towards him, so he reversed to let him past, but lost control and toppled backwards over the cliff.
Coroner David Hinchliff recorded a verdict of accidental death.
He said: “Jimi was a local lad made good, but not because of a silver spoon in his mouth but because of his hard work and ability in business.”