During a few days off from filming Furious 7, Paul Walker died at just 40 years old in a car crash in Santa Clarita, California on November 30, 2013.
On November 28, 2013, Paul Walker signed on to Twitter to wish his followers a happy Thanksgiving. The Fast & Furious actor had many reasons to be grateful that year. The sixth installment of his beloved movie franchise had broken box office records, and he was starting to produce films of his own.
But just two days later, on November 30, Paul Walker died in a tragic car crash at the age of just 40.
Known for being a philanthropist, Walker had spent that day at a toy drive event for his disaster relief charity, Reach Out Worldwide, which was founded in the wake of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Walker eventually left the event in good spirits just before 3:30 p.m.
Much like the character he played in the Fast & Furious movies, Brian O’Conner, Paul Walker was drawn to high-speed cars. In fact, that day’s charity event was held at a high-performance car shop owned by Walker and his friend Roger Rodas in Santa Clarita, California. Walker and Rodas had planned the event to help the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
The pair left the event in a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT, with Rodas driving and Walker riding shotgun. The car was known for being hard to handle, and only a few hundred yards away from the shop, Rodas lost control of the vehicle. The Porsche was traveling at about 100 miles per hour before it hit a curb, a tree, a light post, and then another tree before bursting into flames.
Those attending the charity event immediately came running — including Rodas’ young son. As Paul Walker’s friend Antonio Holmes recalled, it was one of the most horrific crash scenes in Hollywood history. He said, “It was engulfed in flames. There was nothing. They were trapped. Employees, friends of the shop. We tried. We tried. We went through fire extinguishers.”
Both Roger Rodas and Paul Walker died in the crash, and as Walker’s friends watched helplessly, news of the tragedy spread quickly. Within hours, the death of Paul Walker had stunned fans around the world.
This is the full story of Paul Walker’s car crash and his tragic death long before his time.
The Fast And Furious Rise Of Paul Walker
Born on September 12, 1973, in Glendale, California, Paul William Walker IV led a rather charmed life. His mother, Cheryl Crabtree Walker, had been a model until she married former amateur boxer Paul William Walker III and gave birth to five children. Paul was the eldest. He began his entertainment career at a young age, nabbing his first commercial for Pampers at age two.
Walker auditioned for roles throughout middle and high school and secured minor parts in shows like Highway to Heaven and Charles in Charge. He graduated from Village Christian School in Sun Valley, California, in 1991, but his film career didn’t take off until the latter half of the decade.
Directors eagerly cast him in Hollywood movies like Pleasantville in 1998 and Varsity Blues and She’s All That in 1999. Two years later, in 2001, Walker appeared as an undercover cop in The Fast and the Furious.
Based on Kenneth Li’s 1998 VIBE magazine article “Racer X,” the movie centered on the illegal drag racing community and the criminal elements that surrounded it. Walker starred opposite action film star Vin Diesel, and their characters became cult favorites. Their onscreen chemistry later translated to a strong offscreen friendship, as well.
Initially sidelined as a risk, the film set the groundwork for what would become a record-breaking, multi-billion-dollar franchise. Walker was happy to be living the dream. On top of his success on the screen, Walker fathered a daughter named Meadow Rain Walker with his girlfriend Rebecca McBrain and spent his spare time racing, surfing, and working with his charity.
But the good times wouldn’t last forever.
Inside Paul Walker’s Car Accident
On November 30, 2013, Paul Walker intended to spend the day with his family. He was discussing plans to purchase a Christmas tree with his mother Cheryl and his daughter Meadow, who was 15 years old at the time, when he suddenly remembered that his charity was holding an event.
“We were having this good conversation, and he’d forgotten about an event he had,” Cheryl Walker later said. “He got a text and said, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m supposed to be somewhere!'”
The gathering went off without a hitch, but it ended in tragedy before rush hour with Paul Walker’s death. At about 3:30 p.m., Walker and Rodas decided to take the Porsche for a spin to test it on a popular drifting curve at an office park in the Valencia neighborhood of Santa Clarita.
Both the 38-year-old driver and his famous passenger wore seatbelts during the ride, but no precautions would help them once the car hit a curb and the driver’s side clipped a tree and a light post. The car spun around, with the passenger side hitting another tree, and caught on fire.
Countless terrified passersby looked on as the shattered vehicle burned into a smoldering husk. Its passengers were still trapped inside when Rodas’ young son arrived in shock. He had run over to gaze at the scene, unaware this was the same car his father had just left in until he noted its model.
Many tried to help, with shop employees reaching into the car in an attempt to pull the victims out. But due to the intense flames, they had no choice but to stand back and watch Paul Walker’s death. In the end, Walker was burned beyond recognition and had to be identified by his dental records.
How Did Paul Walker Die?
An investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department into how Paul Walker died determined that the speed of the car was a major factor. Initially, the department estimated that the Porsche was going between 80 and 93 miles per hour at the time of the crash. Later, the coroner’s report determined that the car was traveling at about 100 miles per hour.
The report read: “For an unknown reason, the driver lost control of the vehicle and the vehicle partially spun around and began to travel in a south-easterly direction. The vehicle then struck a sidewalk and the driver’s side struck a tree and then a light post. The force of these collisions caused the vehicle to spin 180 degrees and it continued to travel in an easterly direction. The passenger side of the vehicle then struck a tree and it then burst into flames.”
So, how did Paul Walker die? According to the report, Walker’s cause of death was traumatic and thermal injuries, while Rodas died of traumatic injuries. There were no signs of drugs or alcohol detected in either man.
In 2015, Walker’s daughter Meadow filed a wrongful death suit, blaming Porsche’s design flaws for the accident.
“The bottom line is that the Porsche Carrera GT is a dangerous car,” Meadow Walker’s attorney, Jeff Milam, said. “It doesn’t belong on the street. And we shouldn’t be without Paul Walker or his friend, Roger Rodas.”
Ultimately, a thorough analysis found “no pre-existing conditions that would have caused this collision” and blamed worn-out tires and unsafe speeds. Both airbags had deployed as intended, with the autopsy stating Rodas had “rapidly died of severe blunt head, neck, and chest trauma.”
The investigation revealed even more about how Paul Walker died. His autopsy noted fractures in the left jawbone, collarbone, pelvis, ribs, and spine. In addition, “scant soot” was found in his trachea.
Porsche also claimed that the car had been “abused and altered” by unforeseeable modifications. Ultimately, Walker’s daughter settled the lawsuit two years later, keeping the terms confidential.
Meanwhile, the crash site became a mecca for mourning fans to leave tributes to the late actor. And since Paul Walker’s death had occurred in the middle of the filming of Furious 7, Universal Pictures announced a production hiatus until they could consult with his family.
After Walker was cremated and laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, his brother Cody helped the Furious 7 crew finish shooting. He not only hauntingly resembled Walker’s likeness — he felt he owed him everything.
“My love for cars, my love for travel — it’s all from him and I miss him,” said Cody Walker. “I miss him every day.”