5 Tragically Ironic Deaths of Entrepreneurs


Jimi Heselden, the 62-year-old owner of Segway Inc., died on Sunday after riding one of his company’s vehicles over a cliff at his estate in Northern England. The millionaire purchased Segway in early 2010. He was riding a more rugged version of the vehicle at the time of the apparent accident, and according to police reports, no foul play is suspected. Sadly, Heselden isn’t the first entrepreneur to suffer a business-related death.

Aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal was flying gliders well before the Wright Brothers came on to the scene. Despite years of successful flights, the “Glider King” died from a broken spine after his glider lost its lift and plunged 56 feet on August 9, 1896. The Wright Brothers credit Lilienthal with inspiring them: Orville and Wilbur started with unpowered gliders before adding power to their machines later on.

Burt “Butch” Baskin, co-founder of Baskin Robbins, died of a heart attack on December 24, 1967. In the documentary Super Size Me, John Robbins, Burt’s nephew, attributes his death to the amount of ice cream he ate in his life. (He weighed 240 pounds and was only 54 years old when he died.) Irvine Robbins, Burt’s brother-in-law and fellow founder, passed away in 2008 at 90 years old.

After Henry Winstanley lost two of his ships to the treacherous Eddystone Reef in the United Kingdom, the architect constructed a lighthouse in 1698. He collected one penny per ton from passing ships and proudly declared that he wished he could “be in the lighthouse during the greatest storm that ever was.” His prayers were cruelly answered. Winstanley was in the lighthouse when a tremendous hurricane hit the coast on November 26, 1703. The next morning there was little trace of the lighthouse, and no trace of Winstanley.

Italian automobile design firm Pininfarina lost its CEO in August of 2008. Andrea Pininfarina was killed in a motorcycle accident in Turin, Italy near the company’s headquarters at the age of 51. He was the grandson of the firm’s founder, Battista “Pinin” Farina.

In 1863, William Bullock invented the rotary printing press, a machine that helped revolutionize the printing industry due to its great efficiency. Four years later, Bullock suffered a horrible accident after he tried to repair one of his machines by kicking it; his leg was crushed, and days later he died during an operation to amputate his gangrene-infected foot.