Actor Paul Walker, star of seven Fast and Furious films, ironically died Saturday afternoon in a car crash near Valencia, California. The 40-year-old actor was a passenger in a Porsche being driven by friend and co-owner of his automotive shop, Always Evolving, Roger Rodas.
Walker and Rodas, 38, were apparently leaving a car show they’d held Saturday at Always Evolving. Both men organized and participated in many philanthropic organizations, and held car shows nearly once a month to support various charities and organizations. Saturday’s event was being held to raise money for the victims of both the recent typhoon in the Phillipines, as well as a deadly tornado in Indiana.
The crash occurred around 3:30 p.m. on Hercules Street, not far from Always Evolving, where many supporters were still gathered. Jim Torp, a friend of the two men who was still at the location of the event, told the L.A. Times that he heard a loud boom and knew immediately that his friends had crashed. The smoke from the fiery wreckage could be seen at the automotive store, and several men grabbed fire extinguishers and headed to where they thought the fire was, at the top of a nearby hill. However, once the group reached the top, they realized it was a car on fire, and that it was the Porsche Rodas and Walker had recently left the event in.
Torp’s 28-year-old son, Brandon, had been with the group who headed to the top of the hill to see if they could extiniguish the fire. Torp says that upon recognizing the vehicle and running over, Brandon Torp saw his two friends burning to death inside the flaming car. A long-time friend of Walker’s, as well as Rodas’ young son, both had to be restrained from delving into the incinerated Porsche in an attempt to reach the victims. Says Torp, “There was nothing they could do.”
Police are saying that speed may have been a factor in the wreck, and that Hercules Street was known as a quiet area with a speed limit of 45 mph. However, an investigation into the crash is still underway, according to Kim Manatt, an L.A. County sheriff’s Deputy.
Torp said, “They died doing what they enjoy doing. Two close friends died together right next to a church. They’re both with God.”
Friends and fans of the two men arrived early Sunday morning in Valencia to leave mementos at a memorial at the crash site.
— On The Red Carpet (@OnTheRedCarpet) December 1, 2013
“The saddest part,” Torp says, “was watching…Paul Walker’s daughter break down.”
Walker had recently become active in his daughter’s life, 15-year-old Meadow Rain Walker. Meadow Rain was born to a 25-year-old Paul, and his girlfriend Rebecca McBrain, in 1998; the unmarried couple split up soon after Meadow was born. Walker had recently been enjoying time with his only child, who had grown up with her mother, Rebecca. He recently said that his daughter now wanted “a relationship with her Pops, which is cool.”
Walker first rose to fame in 1998 after appearing the film, Pleasantville. At an event in 2011, the actor said, “I thought I’d make one movie, pay off my loans, and go back and finish school. [But] it never stopped.” He went on to star in The Skulls in 1999. Director Rob Cohen says that Paul told him during filming that he wanted to be in a movie where he raced cars. Cohen directed the first Fast and Furious film in 2001, and cast Walker as hero Brian O’Connor.
L.A. County coroner’s investigator, Dana Bee, says that autopsies have not yet been scheduled, and official identification will have to come from dental records, as the bodies are so badly burned.
Main image courtesy @RealPaulWalker via Twitter.