Tibetan independence activist Jigme Norbu, the nephew of the Dalai Lama, was killed in afatal car accident Tuesday during a Valentine’s Day “Walk for Tibet” event. A former restaurateur in Indiana, 45-year-old Norbu leaves behind a wife and three children. His father, the late Thubten Jigme Norbu, was known as the Taktser Rinpoche in Tibetan Buddhism and was the Dalai Lama’s eldest brother.
After his father’s death in 2008, Jigme Norbu dedicated much of his life to the Tibetan cause. Friends remember him as a man who was “always laughing” and who was completely dedicated to the work of the Dalai Lama.
“I walked with him many, many miles and of course, you know the blisters, but he never complained. He always said, it’s ok…my blisters are nothing compared to what happens in Tibet…my brothers and sisters suffering,” said fellow walker Wangchuk Dorjee, who had been participating in the Valentine’s Day walk, his fourth walk with Norbu.
Few details available about fatal car accident on Highway A1A
According to Dorjee and logistics planner Donna Kim-Brand, who was driving a support van during the walk, the walkers had gotten a late start on the Valentine’s Day walk, which was planned to start in St. Augustine and end in West Palm Beach. They had fallen behind on their goal of 30 miles per day when dusk fell.
“After a while, about 20 miles, my back was starting to hurt…he [Norbu] said he was going to keep going another five to six miles,” said Dorjee.
Although they generally didn’t continue walking after dark, they couldn’t dissuade Norbu from walking at least two more miles for the cause. Dorjee got into Kim-Brand’s van and the pair drove ahead to find a place to have dinner.
They waited at the restaurant for Norbu, repeatedly calling his cell phone to no avail.
“We got the call from the trooper who informed us that he’d been struck from behind,” Kim-Brand explained through her tears.
The fatal pedestrian accident took place about 25 miles south of St. Augustine on Highway A1A, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. No other details were available, except that the driver who struck Norbu is not expected to be charged in the man’s wrongful death.
Norbu was not wearing reflective tape on his clothing, although he was wearing athletic shoes with reflectors, Kim-Brand said. He had a white sign that said, “Walk for Tibet, for world peace, human rights and Tibetan independence,” and he had been walking in the direction of traffic. It is not known if Norbu strayed into the road or if the driver veered onto the shoulder before striking him.
Before Dorjee left Norbu, the activist had been talking about his family in Indiana. “He talked a little bit about his oldest son getting ready to go to high school and that he would maybe play football.”
The Dalai Lama has been notified of the fatal car accident and has been in touch with Norbu’s family, Dorjee said. “They’ve already spoken to his holiness and had the Tibetan traditional prayer.”
Source: ABC News, “Dalai Lama’s Nephew Killed By Car on Walkathon, Had to Press On,” Jessica Hopper, February 15, 2011