PALM COAST (CBS4) — Florida Highway Patrol officials say the nephew of the Dalai Lama has been killed along the side of a Florida highway during a 300-mile “Walk for Tibet.”

Jigme K. Norbu, 45, was hit by an SUV along State Road A1A just south of St. Augustine Monday night.

According to, Norbu was walking on Valentine’s Day from St. Augustine south to West Palm Beach to bring awareness to the Tibetan struggle for independence from China. He has done the walks several other times including in 2009 from Indiana to New York.

That walk marked the 50th anniversary of a failed Tibetan rebellion against Chinese rule that resulted in the exile of his uncle, who is Tibet’s top spiritual leader.

Norbu of Bloomington, Ind., was the son of the Dalai Lama’s late brother, Taktser Rinpoche.

Pierre Tristam, editor of, 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 told The Associated Press he went to the scene to see what had happened and when he realized it was Norbu who had been killed, “I was floored.”

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. In September, a dishwasher going home from the same restaurant where Norbu was headed was struck and killed on his bicycle along the highway, Tristam said.

Norbu, a native of New York, was killed about 25 miles south of St. Augustine, where he had begun his journey with several others.

The SUV was driven by 31-year-old Keith R. 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.

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 U.S. representative. The Dalai Lama has visited Bloomington several times. The city about 50 miles southwest of Indianapolis is home to the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center and Kumbum Chamtse Ling Temple.

China claims Tibet as part of its territory, but many Tibetans say Chinese rule deprives them of religious freedom. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of pushing for Tibetan autonomy and fomenting anti-Chinese protests.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (2)
  1. Carol says:

    The fact of the matter is he is gone but I am certain the person didn’t hit him on purpose the street was not lit so there was no way he could see him that itself tells you how dangerous this road really is and that is so sad to hear.


  2. MiamiMex says:

    This is so sad.

    God bless the family and god bless Tibet.

    Unfortunately Tibetan has almost been completely crushed by the cruel boot of the Chinese dictatorship.