The Porsche that actor Paul Walker was riding in when he died on Saturday was traveling at approximately 40 to 45 mph when it came to a bend in the road where the speed limit drops to about 15 mph, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told NBC News on Monday. It was in that vicinity where the driver, Roger Rodas, apparently lost control of the vehicle, ending in the fiery solo accident, the source said.
Walker, 40, and Rodas, 38, were killed at the scene, police said. Their autopsies were put on hold Monday, as the Los Angeles Medical Examiner's Office waits for dental X-rays for each man to aid in making the official identifications, said Craig Harvey, chief of the coroner's operations bureau.
In an interview with KNBC on Monday, Walker's heartbroken father said Paul was "the most courageous" of his sons, even as a child. He once stood up for a small boy who was being bullied by "a big husky guy."
“Paul never thought anybody was beneath him," Paul William Walker III said. "When he hugged me it was like this is a special, special thing. He had this way, this bounce, the way he walked, I always kidded him about the way he walked.”
To moviegoers, Walker was the sexy “Fast and Furious” FBI agent who infiltrated the local street racing scene and never let go. Off screen, the actor loved fast cars just as much as his alter-ego but lived a quiet, philanthropic life centered around his 15-year-old daughter Meadow, who moved in with him this year.
Walker died while attending a charity event for Reach Out Worldwide, an organization he founded after he volunteered in Haiti in 2010, following the island’s devastating earthquakes, and witnessed first-hand the lack of resources needed to deal with natural disasters. The car show and toy drive event was held at Walker’s automotive shop Always Evolving in Valencia, just north of Los Angeles, with proceeds earmarked for families affected by the typhoon in the Philippines and a tornado in Indiana.
"Paul wasn't someone who would just write a check and lend his name to an organization; he was the heart and soul of Reach Out Worldwide,” JD Dorfman, who worked at Reach Out Worldwide, told Christian Today. “Paul was the first one in and the last one out; he led by example and his hard work and dedication inspired everyone who had the privilege of working with him.”
According to Dorfman, Walker led one of the first teams into the hardest hit areas of Haiti and later traveled to Chile to take water and medical aid after the earthquake and tsunami there. He also cleared debris and helped people move back into their homes after the tornadoes in Alabama. A friend of Walker’s who attended the car show event on Saturday told E! that the organization meant “everything” to the actor and he put "everything he could" into his charity.
"He had been so happy," Townsend said. "He was there at the event and had managed to raise thousands and so many people had brought toys. “So many people had come out to support the charity and he was with his friends. It was a great day for him. He was so overwhelmed to have so much support."
Walker went for a ride in a red limited-edition Porsche Carrera GT with Rodas, his friend and chief executive officer of Always Evolving, when the accident happened. Walker was in the passenger seat, and speed may have been a factor, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office said. The car knocked over a tree and a concrete lamppost. About 20 witnesses told police they tried to extinguish the fire to remove the two men from the burning vehicle but they were unsuccessful. By the time, the sheriff's office arrived on the scene, the car was engulfed, police said.
"[My son] tried to extinguish the car," said Jim Torp, who attended the event and heard the crash, in an interview with "Access Hollywood." "It was a small flame when he got there. He put the fire extinguisher on, and then the car blew up. Within split seconds, I was trying to get other people from AE up there to help. Everybody thought it was a special effects explosion, because there's a special effects place right behind the studio."
In an article on Sunday, Autoweek said that Always Evolving purchased the Porsche in the spring and that "it is a difficult car to drive for even professionals, with one top driver calling its handling 'scary.'
The actor's father said his son usually liked to race his cars at the track because “the last thing I want to do is hurt somebody driving crazy, that’s the last thing I want to do.”
Walker’s 15-year-old daughter, Meadow, moved in with her father full-time this year, after growing up in Hawaii with her mother, Rebecca McBrain, and visiting her father regularly over the years. The actor told Entertainment Weekly in March that his daughter had given him a new sense of home.
“My heart was desperate for so many years with the situation with my daughter,” he said. “She’s living in Hawaii and she’s there and I’m running here. My daughter lives with me full-time now and she’s the best partner I’ve ever had. It’s so nuts. I’ve never had anything like this in my life. I’ve been so transient, I’ve been on my own since I was 16. I didn’t even have my own place until I was 32 years old. I literally lived out of bags for 16-plus years.”
Andrew Blankstein of the NBC News Investigative Unit contributed to this report.
First published December 2 2013, 3:48 PM