- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 15, 2011

PALM COAST, Fla. | On the beginning leg of a 300-mile walk to promote Tibetan independence from China, the Dalai Lama’s nephew was struck and killed by an SUV Monday along a dark Florida coastal highway about a quarter of a mile from where he planned to rest for the evening.

Jigme K. Norbu, 45, was headed south in the same direction as traffic, following the highway’s white line when he was hit, according to the Highway Patrol. The impact crumpled the vehicle’s hood and shattered the front windshield.

The driver, Keith R. O’Dell, 31, of Palm Coast, was not charged. He and his 5-year-old son in the SUV were not injured.

Mr. Norbu, who lived in Bloomington, Ind., and was active in a Tibetan rights group there, started with others Monday on a Walk for Tibet from St. Augustine south to West Palm Beach on a highway that runs the length of the state’s Atlantic coast.

A Florida couple who met Mr. Norbu about an hour before the accident said they were worried about the fading sunlight and urged him to stay at their home for the night. Mr. Norbu was behind schedule and seemed agreeable to change his plans.

“It was becoming dusk. We were worried, and we were concerned he wasn’t going to have daylight,” Gary Collins told the Associated Press.

The Collinses suggested that Mr. Norbu stay at their condo, but he wanted to spend the night under the stars, so they drove ahead and made preparations at their Hammock Wine & Cheese Shoppe, about a quarter mile from where Mr. Norbu was killed. They left a towel, a bar of soap, three bottles of coconut juice, a can of stuffed grape leaves and crackers on a table outside their doorstep.

“He was smiling and happy. He had as much positive energy as you could imagine,” Mr. Collins said.

His wife, Damian Drum Collins, took a picture with Mr. Norbu before he continued on his journey. Mr. Norbu was wearing running shoes and a sandwich-board-like sign that said: “Walk For Tibet Florida.”

“It is such a sad thing. I was honored to see him. I said, ‘I’m sorry to stop you,’ but he said he didn’t mind because he wanted to raise awareness for his cause,” Mrs. Collins said.

At the accident site, a vase held seven roses on the side of the two-lane highway, where the speed limit is 55 mph. There are no street lights where Mr. Norbu was walking, but there is a bike path along the other side of the street, in front of a community center.

A dishwasher at a nearby restaurant was killed in September along the same stretch of highway.

Mr. Norbu, the son of the Dalai Lama’s late brother, Taktser Rinpoche, has done similar walks several other times, including 900 miles in 2009 from Indiana to New York.



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