Feb. 15, 2011 -- Those participating in a Walk for Tibet event with Jigme Norbu, the nephew of the Dalai Lama, the day he was struck and killed by a car said he was so dedicated to the cause that he insisted on pressing on after dark with the walk.
Last night, Norbu, 45, was hit and killed by a car while walking along Highway A1A just 25 miles south of St. Augustine, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Norbu had begun his walks in part to commemorate and carry on the works of the Dalai Lama and his late father, said Donna Kim-Brand, who planned the logistics of the Valentine's Day walk. She was driving ahead of Norbu for most of yesterday.
"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 fellow walker Wangchuk Dorjee.
Dorjee got into the van being driven by Kim-Brand.
"He [Norbu] sent us ahead to stake out a dinner place and he said he would join us after he walked two more miles for the cause," Kim-Brand said.
While Norbu was wearing sneakers with reflectors, he did not have any reflective tape on his clothing, Kim-Brand said. He was walking with traffic wearing a white sign that said, "Walk for Tibet, for world peace, human rights and Tibetan independence."
Kim-Brand and Dorjee went ahead of Norbu despite their reservations about him walking in the dark. They usually never walk in the dark, they said.
The two waited at a restaurant for Norbu. They called his cell phone repeatedly with no answer.
"We got the call from the trooper who informed us that he'd been struck from behind," Kim-Brand said through tears.
"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," Dorjee said. Norbu was "always laughing" and "dedicated" to the work of his uncle, he added.
Dalai Lama's Nephew Killed on "Walk for Tibet"
Dorjee, 67, was participating in his fourth walk with Jigme Norbu, the nephew of the Dalai Lama. Norbu had organized the Valentine's Day walk from St. Augustine, Fla., to West Palm Beach, Dorjee said.
Police have released few details about the accident and the driver of the car that hit Norbu was not arrested.
Dorjee said that the Dalai Lama has been in touch with Norbu's family.
"They've already spoken to his holiness and had the Tibetan traditional prayer," Dorjee said.
Dorjee said that he and Norbu got a late start yesterday when they began their walk.
"Our goal was 30 miles per day...we were a little behind and we just kept going," Dorjee said. "He talked a little bit about his oldest son getting ready to go to high school and that he would maybe play football."
Norbu lived in Bloomington, Ind. with his wife and three children. His father, Taktser Rinpoche, had fled with his brother, the Dalai Lama, from Tibet in 1959.
Rinpoche, who was also known as Thubten Norbu, was a professor at Indiana University until he died in 2008.
While Norbu's walks had consumed the last few years of his life, he'd previously worked in the restaurant industry.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.