Actor Paul William Walker IV starred in over 30 films and sitcoms, but was most famous for his appearances in the Fast & Furious franchise. He was at first rumored to have died early Sunday afternoon on December 1st, and it was quickly confirmed that he and an unnamed person died in a horrific crash in which the vehicle, a Porsche Carrera GT, burst into flames after hitting a light post and a tree at high speeds. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department was the first to respond on scene.
Walker was in Valencia, CA for a charitable function to benefit victims of Typhoon Haiyan for his organization Reach Out Worldwide. The fundraiser took place at a nearby race car shop. Walker's publicist, Ame Van Iden, confirmed the actor's death in a statement.
“It is with a truly heavy heart that we much confirm that Paul Walker passed away today in a tragic car accident while attending a charity event for his organization Reach Out Worldwide,” one rep posted on Walker’s Facebook page. “He was a passenger in a friend’s car, in which both lost their lives. We appreciate your patience as we too are stunned and saddened beyond belief by this news. 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.”
Attendees of the fundraiser rushed to put out the flames with fire extinguishers, but it was too late.
"All of us at Universal are heartbroken," said Universal Pictures 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 & Furious films, and to countless fans."
Actor Vin Diesel released a statement saying he was "speechless" and "heartbroken" over Walker's death. He went on to call him a brother.
Paul Walker starred in all but the second installment of the franchise and was instrumental in helping make it a cult classic. Director Neal H. Moritz, after liking Walker's performance in the 2000 thriller Skulls, added him to the cast of Fast & the Furious. He was a self-described "gear-head."
"Your humble spirit was felt from the start," Fast & Furious co-star Ludacris said on Twitter. "Wherever you blessed your presence you always left a mark, we were like brothers."
Paul Walker recently starred in the Hurricane Katrina drama Hours, which is slated for release in less than two weeks, and had begun shooting the seventh Fast & Furious film in September with additional filming to be done. Reps for the film, which is set to be released July 11, 2014, say production and the franchise will continue despite Walker's death. Survived by 15-year-old daughter Meadow Walker, he was 40 years old.