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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dalai Lama's nephew dead

Dalai Lama's nephew killed in car accident in US

At the beginning leg of a 500-kilometer walk to promote Tibetan independence from China, the Dalai Lama's nephew was struck and killed by a vehicle along a dark Florida coastal highway, about 400 meters from where he planned to rest for the evening.

Jigme K. Norbu, 45, was heading south in the same direction as traffic, following the highway's white line when he was hit on Tuesday, 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 vehicle were not injured.

Norbu, who lived in Bloomington, Indiana, and was active in a Tibetan rights group there, had started with others on 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.

After one of his companions tired and decided to travel by van to a restaurant, Norbu continued alone and planned to meet them there.

At the accident site, a vase held seven roses on the side of the two-lane highway, where the speed limit is 55 miles (88 kilometers) per hour.

There are no street lights where Norbu was walking, but there is a bike path along the other side of the street, in front of a community centre.

A dishwasher at a nearby restaurant was killed in September along the same stretch of highway as Norbu, who was dead when emergency services arrived.

Norbu, the son of the Dalai Lama's late brother, Taktser Rinpoche, has completed similar walks several other times, including 1,500 kilometers in 2009 from Indiana to New York.

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

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 US representative.

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.

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