Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Walker died in known street-racing area

Police say road attracted speedsters

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LOS ANGELES -- The neighbourhood where Fast & Furious star Paul Walker died in a one-car crash is known to attract street racers, said law enforcement officials.

Walker and his friend and fellow fast-car enthusiast Roger Rodas died Saturday when the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT they were travelling in smashed into a light pole and tree. There is no evidence they were racing another car, investigators said Monday, though speed was a factor.

The two had taken what was expected to be a brief drive away from a charity fundraiser and toy drive at Rodas' custom car shop in the southern California community of Valencia, about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

The crash happened on a street that forms an approximately 1.6-kilometre loop amid industrial office parks and is rimmed by hills and isolated from traffic, especially on weekends.

"It's well-known out here that that's a hot spot for street racers," California Highway Patrol Sgt. Rick Miler said. "It's a long stretch where, weekends, businesses are all closed and they feel like nobody's going to bother them up there."

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is still investigating the accident but already has said speed was a factor. The posted limit was 70 km/h.

Investigators are trying to determine how fast the car was travelling and what caused it to go out of control, including whether the driver was distracted or something in the road prompted him to swerve.

Walker's publicist said the action star was Rodas' passenger. Officials have not named either person found in the car. The bodies were so badly burned by the fire that engulfed the wreck that dental records will be needed to confirm their identities.

Walker and Rodas bonded over their shared love of racing.

Rodas, 38, and Walker, 40, co-owned an auto racing team named after Rodas' shop, Always Evolving. Rodas was a financial adviser as well as a professional driver who competed in 10 Pirelli World Challenge GTS races in 2013, his first year on the circuit. He finished second in rookie-of-the-year standings, circuit spokesman Dave Drimmie said.

Walker starred in all but one of the six Fast & Furious blockbusters. He had been on break from shooting the latest instalment; Universal Pictures has not said what it plans to do with Fast & Furious 7, currently slated for a July release.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 3, 2013 C11

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