By City News Service
Actor Paul Walker, who starred in the popular "The Fast and the Furious" franchise of street racing films, was one of two people killed in a single-vehicle crash and fire in Valencia Saturday, his publicist and officials with Universal Pictures told reporters. He was 40.
"Sadly, I have to confirm that Paul Walker did pass away this afternoon," Walker's publicist, Anne Van Iden, said in a prepared statement.
Universal Pictures, the studio behind the "Fast & Furious" series, issued a statement saying, "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."
Media reports have identified the other man as Roger Rodas, 38, a co- owner of Always Evolving Performance, a Valencia-based dealer of specialty cars and auto products. Rodas reportedly was driving the car.
The two had just attended a charity car show and toy drive hosted by Always Evolving and had left just minutes before the crash, according to the The Santa Clarita Valley Signal
The crash in the 28300 block of Rye Canyon Loop near Kelly Johnson Parkway was reported about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Kim Manatt said.
Arriving deputies found the vehicle engulfed in flames, she said.
Los Angeles County firefighters extinguished the fire and found two victims inside the vehicle who were pronounced dead at the scene, Manatt said.
"Speed was a factor in the solo vehicle collision," she said. The car was a red 2005 Porsche Carrera GT.
Antonio Holmes, who told the Signal he was a friend of Walker and Rodas, said several people at the dealership tried to rescue the two.
"We all ran around and jumped in cars and grabbed fire extinguishers and immediately went to the vehicle," Holmes told the Signal. "It was engulfed in flames. We tried. We tried."
TMZ first reported that Walker, who starred as undercover Los Angeles police detective Brian O'Conner in the 2001 film "The Fast and the Furious" and five of the six sequels, died in the crash.
The news was confirmed on his Facebook page, which included a statement that the actor was a passenger in a friend's car when the crash occurred.
"It is with a truly heavy heart that we must confirm that Paul Walker passed away today (Saturday) in a tragic car accident while attending a charity event for his organization Reach Out Worldwide. He was a passenger in a friend's car, in which both lost their lives," the statement said.
TMZ reported that the car hit a tree or post and caught fire.
"Fast & Furious 7" -- starring Walker, Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson -- was in the process of filming with a 2014 release expected, according to IMDb.com. "Fans & Furious 6" was released in May and became the highest- grossing film in the series, earning close to $240 million at the U.S. box office.
Several of his "Fast & Furious" co-stars took to Twitter Saturday to express their shock and condolences.
"Brother, I will miss you very much," Vin Diesel posted. "I am absolutely speechless."
Actor-wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson said, in part, "All my strength, love and faith to the Walker family during this heartbreaking time. Love you brother."
Walker was born in Glendale and began acting as a toddler in a Pampers commercial. He was raised in a traditional Mormon family in Sun Valley and graduated from Village Christian High School in 1991.
His other credits include "Takers," "Varsity Blues," "She's All That," "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Pleasantville" plus numerous TV guest appearances.
He appeared in three other films this year besides the "Fast & Furious" sequel and has another film, "Hours," about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, scheduled for release on Dec. 13, according to Variety.
His survivors include a 15-year-old daughter, Meadow Rain.