ABOVE PHOTO: First responders gather evidence near the wreckage of a Porsche sports car that crashed into a light pole on Hercules Street near Kelly Johnson Parkway in Valencia on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013. A publicist for actor Paul Walker (insert) says the star of the “Fast & Furious” movie series has died in a car crash north of Los Angeles. He was 40. Ame Van Iden says Walker died Saturday afternoon. No further details were released.
(AP Photo/The Santa Clarita Valley Signal, Dan Watson)
By Justin Pritchard and Jake Coyle
LOS ANGELES — Fans of “Fast & Furious” star Paul Walker erected a makeshift memorial near the site of his fatal automobile crash, as investigators worked to determine the cause of the fiery weekend wreck that also claimed the life of his friend.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said speed was a factor in Saturday’s one-car crash, though it will take time to determine how fast the car was going.
Roger Rodas, Walker’s friend and financial adviser, also died, according to Walker’s publicist, Ame Van Iden. She said Walker was a passenger in the 2005 red Porsche Carrera GT when they drove away from a fundraiser in the community of Valencia, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
Sheriff’s deputies found the car engulfed in flames when they arrived at the site of the crash, near the fundraiser at Rodas’ sport car dealership. Officials have not identified either person found in the car.
Because Walker is so closely associated with the underground culture of street racing portrayed in the popular film franchise, the accident had an eerie quality – a tragic end for a Hollywood hero of speed.
On Sunday, fans of Walker, 40, gathered to leave flowers, candles and memorabilia from the action movies. His “Fast & Furious” co-star Tyrese Gibson broke down when he visited the crash site.
“Paul is the heartbeat of this franchise and we’re gonna see to it that his energy and presence lives on forever,” Gibson later posted on his Instagram account.
Sheriff’s deputy Peter Gomez said investigators were trying to determine how fast the car was traveling and what caused it to go out of control, including whether the driver was distracted or something in the road prompted him to swerve.
After the Porsche crashed into a light pole and tree, it burst into flames. The downed light pole had a speed limit sign of 45 mph.
Walker rode the “Fast & Furious” franchise to fame, starring in all but one of the six action blockbusters, beginning with the first film in 2001. He had been on break from shooting the seventh installment; production began in September and while much of the film has been shot, it’s incomplete.
Universal Pictures has not said what it plans to do with “Fast & Furious 7,” which currently is slated for release in July.
Walker and Rodas had thrown a fundraiser benefiting victims of the recent typhoon in the Philippines. The event was held by Reach Out Worldwide, a charity Walker founded in 2010 to aid victims of natural disasters.
The fundraiser and toy drive took place at Rodas’ custom car shop, Always Evolving, in an area of warehouses and office parks. Rodas, 38, and Walker co-owned an auto racing team. Rodas competed in 10 Pirelli World Challenge GTS races this year, the racing organization said in a statement.
Attendees rushed to the crash, which was nearby but out of sight, to try to put out the flames with fire extinguishers.
One attendee of the event, Jim Torp, said he heard the loud sound of a car’s engine revving and then an explosion. Walker and Rodas planned a quick ride, Torp said.
“The last words Paul said to anybody were, ‘Hey, I’ll be back in five minutes. All right?’ And that was it,” according to Torp.
Torp said Rodas had a young son, whom he tried to stop from running to the accident scene, but could not catch him in time.
Walker left behind two completed films. He stars in the upcoming Hurricane Katrina drama “Hours,” which Lionsgate’s Pantelion Films is to release Dec. 13. He also stars in “Brick Mansions,” a remake of the French action film “District B13” that Relativity plans to release next year.
He is survived by his 15-year-old daughter Meadow.
Celebrities react to Paul Walker’s death
Paul Walker‘s death in a tragic car crash has shocked the world and now celebrities have been pouring in tributes to the Fast & Furious star on Twitter.
Messages from people who had a chance to work with him, like his Fast & Furious franchise co-star Ludacris and his Into the Blue co-star Tyson Beckford, and other celebs who just admired his work sent out their love via the social media site.
“Your humble spirit was felt from the start, wherever you blessed your presence you always left a mark, we were like brothers & our birthdays are only 1 day apart, now You will forever hold a place in all of our hearts @paulwalker legacy will live on forever. R.I.P,” Ludacris wrote on Instagram.
Rihanna: “Very Very sad news…I’m so heartbroken about this! #PW”
Michael B. Jordan: “Man life is so short. People you care about can be here one min and gone the next Don’t take life for granted RIP Paul Walker”
James Franco: “#paulwalker – much love to paul walker. So sad. He gave a lot of joy.”
Sarah Michelle Gellar: “[email protected] May he be in peace. To his family you are in our thoughts and prayers.”
Busy Philipps: “This Paul Walker news is so sad. Prayers for his little girl and all his friends and family.”
Jenna Dewan-Tatum: “Just heard the awful news about Paul Walker…so so sad. I’ve always heard such nice things about him. Prayers to his family :(”
Ali Larter: “So shocked and saddened to hear about the tragic loss of Paul Walker. My love to his family.”
Gabrielle Union: “There are no words… Someone pls say this is just another absurd internet hoax… This is awful. Awful. #RIPPaulWalker pls pray for his family, friends & fans. We’ve lost a great, laid back, sweet, cool man & father”
Tyson Beckford: “RIP Paul Walker, loved working with you on “Into the Blue”. I Will miss you.”
Zachary Levi: “I didn’t know him well at all, but I know that the world lost an incredibly kind man in Paul Walker today. So truly sad.”
Kevin Hart: “I’m a devastated right now. My prayers & condolences go out to Paul Walkers family & friends. He was a amazing talent & will truly b missed”
Kevin McHale: “So sad to hear about Paul Walker. So young. Can’t believe it.”
Amber Riley: “My condolences to Paul Walker’s family. Rest In Peace.”
Tracie Thoms: “I can’t believe it…Wow. #RIPPaulWalker”
Michael Strahan: “RIP Paul Walker. Gone too soon!! Life is precious”
Alyssa Milano: “No, @RealPaulWalker. No. No. No. Rest with the angels. You. Sweet boy. #beauty #love #RIP”
Lady Antebellum’s Hilary Scott: “So unbelievably sad to hear of Paul Walker’s death. Prayers going up for his family, and for all who love and admire him.”
Aaron Carter: “I grew up idolizing @Realpaulwalker I’m so saddened for his family and this stunning tragic loss … ”
Carson Daly: “Sick about the tragic loss of #PaulWalker. I enjoyed our time together very much. Such a really nice guy. Prayers to his family and friends.”
Idris Elba: “I’m Heart broken Paul Walker, he was a mate of mine, very sad. My heart goes out to his daughter.”
Djimon Hounsou: “@RealPaulWalker may you be celebrated always! Benedictions!”