Paul Walker, ‘Fast & Furious’ star, dies in crash

Paul Walker, 'Fast & Furious' star, dies in crash (Image 1)
Paul Walker, 'Fast & Furious' star, dies in crash (Image 1)

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A fiery car crash north of Los Angeles has killed
40-year-old Paul Walker, the star of the “Fast & Furious” movie
series, and one other person in the vehicle.

Deputies found a Porsche Carrera GT engulfed in
flames when they responded to a report of a collision Saturday afternoon
in the community of Valencia, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's
Department said. Two people who were found in the car were pronounced
dead at the scene.

Walker's publicist Ame Van Iden confirmed the
actor's death. A statement on Walker's Facebook page said he was a
passenger in a friend's car, and that Walker was in the area to attend a
charity event for his organization Reach Out Worldwide.

The Sheriff's Department said that speed was a factor in the crash.

The Santa Clarita Valley Signal reported that the
Porsche crashed into a light pole and tree and burst into flames. The
fundraiser, to benefit victims of Typhoon Haiyan, took place at a nearby
racecar shop. Attendees rushed to put out the flames with fire
extinguishers to no avail.

“All of us at Universal are heartbroken,” Universal
Pictures, which has released the “Fast & Furious” franchise, said
in a statement. “Paul was truly one of the most beloved and respected
members of our studio family for 14 years, and this loss is devastating
to us, to everyone involved with the 'Fast and Furious' films, and to
countless fans.”

His “Fast & Furious” co-star Vin Diesel posted a
photograph of him and Walker arm-in-arm on Instagram with the message:
“Brother I will miss you very much. I am absolutely speechless.”

Walker rode the “Fast & Furious” franchise to
stardom, starring in all but one of the six action blockbusters,
beginning with the first film in 2001. The blond-haired, blue-eyed Los
Angeles-native brought California surfer good-looks and an easy, warm
charm to the popular street-racing series.

The son of a fashion model and a sewer contractor,
Walker grew up in a working class, Mormon household in Glendale, Calif.
The oldest of five siblings, Walker's mother began taking him to
auditions as a toddler. He was a child model beginning at the age of 2.

Walker has said the early induction to show
business wasn't to start him on a career path, but as a way to help
provide for the family.

After a string of TV roles as a child in the '80s,
including small roles on “Who's the Boss” and “Charles in Charge,”
Walker made his feature film debut in the 1998 comedy “Meet the
Deedles.” Supporting roles in the films “Pleasantville,” ''Varsity
Blues” and “Flags of Our Fathers” followed.

His performance in the 2000 thriller “The Skulls”
caught the eye of producer Neal H. Moritz, who cast him in “The Fast and
the Furious” as undercover police officer Brian O'Conner. Adapted from a
Vibe magazine article about underground street races, the film became
an unexpected hit.

In the sequel, “2 Fast 2 Furious,” Walker moved to
center stage with Diesel temporarily dropping out. Walker, a
self-described “gearhead,” kept his character's sports car from the
film.

Walker starred in other films, including the crime
thriller “Running Scared,” the Antarctic adventure “Eight Below” and the
heist film “Takers.” Though his stardom didn't make as much of an
impact outside the “Fast & Furious” series, Walker continually drew
praise from his co-stars and directors as a kind-hearted and eager
collaborator.

“Your humble spirit was felt from the start,”
Ludacris, Walker's “Fast & Furious” co-star, said on Twitter.
“Wherever you blessed your presence you always left a mark, we were like
brothers.”

“Fast & Furious” proved unusually enduring.
Released in May, “Fast & Furious 6” was the most lucrative of them
all, grossing more than $788 million worldwide. The seventh installment
began shooting in September, with a release planned for July. The film's
production was on break with more shooting to be done.

Walker 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” in post-production that Relativity plans to release next
year. “Paul was an incredibly talent artist, devoted philanthropist and
friend,” Relativity President Tucker Tooley said in a statement.

He formed Reach Out Worldwide in 2010 to aid people struck by natural disasters.

A friend of Walker's who attended the fundraiser
Saturday, Bill Townsend, told AP Radio, “He was very happy. He was
smiling at everybody, just tickled that all these people came out to
support this charity. He was doing what he loved. He was surrounded by
friends, surrounded by cars.”

Walker is survived by his 15-year-old daughter.

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