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Paul Walker, the edgy action hero with all-American good looks who became an international star with “The Fast & the Furious” movie franchise, has died in a fiery car collision in Southern California. He was 40 years old. The sad news was confirmed Saturday night by Walker’s camp via the actor’s official Twitter account.
According to the statement put out by Walker’s team and also posted on Facebook, the actor was “attending a charity event for his organization Reach Out Worldwide. He was a passenger in a friend’s car.
“We appreciate your patience as we too are stunned and saddened beyond belief by this news,” the statement continued. “Thank you for keeping his family and friends in your prayers during this very difficult time. We will do our best to keep you apprised on where to send condolences.”
The identity of the second victim, a male, has not been released by authorities; but numerous reports have identified the driver as Roger Rodas, the owner of Walker’s auto-racing team, Always Evolving.
“Him and his buddy, his brother in arms at heart, just decided to joyride, take a spin,” Antonio Holmes, an onlooker at the event who identified himself as a friend of Walker’s, told the local Santa Clarita Valley Signal newspaper. “Something we all do. We’re all car enthusiasts. … We’re all here driving, enjoying each other, and God must’ve needed help.”
According to witnesses, the red Porsche carrying Walker and his friend lost control and slammed into a tree and then a light pole. Walker, an unapologetic car lover, had been participating in the “Winter Drive” for Reach Out Worldwide, a toy drive and car meet charity event for disadvantaged children. Walker was also involved in humanitarian efforts in Chile and Haiti after the devastating earthquakes in both countries.
Earlier, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and county coroner confirmed that two people were pronounced dead at the scene of a crash in Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles, around 3:30 p.m. PT.
“When they arrived, deputies found the vehicle engulfed in flames. The Los Angeles County Fire Department responded, extinguished the fire and subsequently located two victims inside the vehicle,” Sheriff’s Deputy Kim Manatt said in a statement. “The victims were pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of the collision is under investigation.”
The tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed heartthrob was a California native, hailing from the L.A. suburb of Glendale. He began appearing in TV commercials when he was just a toddler. He guest starred on shows like “Highway to Heaven” and “Charles in Charge” as a teen, and scored his first leading role in 1998’s “Meet the Deedles.” This lead to higher profile roles in features like “Pleasantville,” “Varsity Blues,” and “She’s All That” in the late ’90s before cementing his status as a leading man in 2001’s “The Fast and the Furious.”
Walker starred in all but the third installment of the “Fast & Furious” movies, including the seventh chapter which is still in production and scheduled for release next summer. He also received critical acclaim for his performances in 2006’s “Running Scared” and in Clint Eastwood’s WWII drama, “Flags of Our Fathers.” His next film, “Hours,” about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, is scheduled to open on December 13.
In a brief statement, Universal, the studio behind the “Fast” franchise, mourned one of its top stars: “All of us at Universal are heartbroken. 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. We send our deepest and most sincere condolences to Paul’s family.”
Walker is survived by his 15-year-old daughter, Meadow.