At 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 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, 31-year-old Keith R. O’Dell of Palm Coast, was not charged. He and his 5-year-old son in the SUV were not injured.
Norbu, who lived in Bloomington, Ind., and was active in a Tibetan rights group there, had started the trip with friends Monday from St. Augustine south to West Palm Beach on a highway that runs the length of the state’s Atlantic coast.
As the others went ahead of Norbu and waited for his arrival at a restaurant miles away, Norbu was met by a Florida couple, about an hour before the accident.
“He was smiling and happy. He had as much positive energy as you could imagine,” Gary Collins told The Associated Press.
Collins’ wife, Damian Drum Collins, took a picture with Norbu, who was wearing running shoes, a dark pullover and a white sandwich board-like sign that said, “Walk For Tibet Florida.”
The couple was troubled by the fading sunlight and urged Norbu to stay at their place for the night. Norbu was already behind schedule, they said, and agreed to change his plans.