Paul Walker dies: Liam Neeson among tributes for Fast and Furious star killed in horrific Los Angeles car crash
Liam Neeson and Vin Diesel have lead tributes for Fast and Furious star Paul Walker who died in a car crash in Los Angeles.
The California-born actor was in the passenger seat of a red Porsche Carrera GT sports car while attending a charity event when the vehicle crashed into a lamp post and a tree, according to local media reports.
On Twitter, Ballymena actor Liam Neeson paid tribute to the 40-year-old screen-star.
"Just heard about Paul Walker... Very sad tragic car accident. My heart goes out to his friends and family. Love. #RIPPaulWalker"
Los Angeles police said officers responded to reports of a collision in the Valencia suburb north of the city, and arrived to find the car engulfed in flames. They said two people were found in the car and pronounced dead at the scene.
Representatives for Walker confirmed that he had died, aged 40, late on Saturday afternoon.
A statement on the actor’s Facebook page read: “It is with a truly heavy heart that we must confirm that Paul Walker passed away today in a tragic car accident while attending a charity event for his organisation Reach Out Worldwide.
“He was a passenger in a friend's car, in which both lost their lives. We... are stunned and saddened beyond belief by this news.”
Though the identity of the driver of the car was not confirmed by police officials, reports in the Santa Clarita Valley Signal quoted a person close to the incident as saying it was the race car driver Roger Rodas.
According to the Signal, Rodas was the owner of the Always Evolving high-performance car shop where the charity event was taking place. Friends said the two decided to go for a spin in Rodas' Porsche, and the accident occurred just one block away.
Antonio Holmes, who said he was a friend of Walker, told the newspaper: “We all heard it from our location (the accident). “It’s a little difficult to know what it was. Someone called it in and said it was a vehicle fire.
“We all ran around and jumped in cars and grabbed fire extinguishers and immediately went to the vehicle. 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.”
The Sheriff's Department said that speed was a factor in the crash.
Another friend of Walker's who attended the fundraiser, Bill Townsend, told AP Radio, “He was very happy. He was smiling at everybody, just tickled that all these people came out to support this charity. He was doing what he loved. He was surrounded by friends, surrounded by cars.”
At the time of his death, Walker was halfway through filming the seventh instalment in Universal Pictures’ highly successful “Fast & Furious” movie franchise.
After supporting roles in a number of late 1990s teen films, Walker got his big break in Hollywood with 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, an action movie about the underground street-racing scene.
Starring alongside Vin Diesel in the first film, Walker’s success grew with that of the series as he was given the lead role in the second instalment, 2 Fast 2 Furious, when Diesel dropped out.
The franchise went on to earn an estimated $2.4 billion (£1.5 billion) worldwide, and the recent sixth film was the most financially successful yet.
“All of us at Universal are heartbroken,” Universal Pictures said 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.”
Diesel posted a photograph of him and Walker arm-in-arm on Instagram with the message: “Brother I will miss you very much. I am absolutely speechless.”
Walker set up the Reach Out Worldwide charity in 2010 to help those affected by natural disasters, and starred in the upcoming drama film Hours, about Hurricane Katrina. It is due to be released on 13 December.
Walker is survived by his 15-year-old daughter.