The nephew of the Dalai Lama was killed on Monday along a Florida highway during one of his long treks to raise awareness of the Tibetan struggle for independence from China, officials said.
Jigme Norbu, 45, was hit by a sport utility vehicle at about 7:30pm on State Road A1A along the state’s eastern coast, the Florida Highway Patrol reported. Police released few other details.
According to Web site www.ambassadorforworldpeace.org, Norbu was on a Valentine’s Day “Walk for Tibet” about 480km from St Augustine south to West Palm Beach. Norbu, of Bloomington, Indiana, was the son of the Dalai Lama’s late brother, Taktser Rinpoche and had done similar walks, including a 1,450km trek in 2009 from Indiana to New York to mark the 50th anniversary of the failed Tibetan rebellion against Chinese rule that led to his uncle going into exile.
Pierre Tristam, editor of www.flaglerlive.com, a community nonprofit news service that covers Flagler County, was on his way to a restaurant to interview Norbu and some of his companions about the walk when he noticed police lights on the highway close by. He went to the scene to see what had happened and soon realized it was Norbu who had been killed, he said.
He said Norbu was walking along the white line on the side of the dark highway when he was hit. The highway isn’t lit, and Tristam didn’t think the moon was out.
Norbu, a native of New York, was killed about 40km south of St Augustine, where he had begun his journey with several others.
The SUV was driven by 31-year-old Keith O’Dell of Palm Coast, who had his two young children with him, according to the Highway Patrol’s report. They were not injured. O’Dell was not charged.
Norbu’s late father was a high lama who was abbot of a monastery when the Chinese invaded. The brothers fled into exile following the 1959 uprising.
Taktser Rinpoche, who died in September 2008 at 86, was a professor of Tibetan studies at Indiana University in Bloomington while serving as the Dalai Lama’s US representative.