By Michael YEGHIAYAN
While much of the nation reacts to the sudden passing of Paul Walker as an actor and co-star of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, many local individuals mourn the loss of a beloved member of the community.
Walker and his friend Roger Rodas died in a fiery car crash on Saturday when the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT Rodas was driving slammed into a tree and light pole. The car was then engulfed in flames.
Walker spent much of his childhood locally, and was primarily raised in Sunland. He was described by those who knew him as a genuine and humble person even after enjoying commercial success in Hollywood.
In his Sunland neighborhood he is simply known as “Little Paul.”
“He was just a nice kid, everybody liked him,” said a neighbor of the Walker family who lived nearby for nearly 30 years. He wished to remain anonymous. “When you get that close to someone, you get proud of the fact that he made something of himself. It was like losing a member of my own family.”
“It’s just so sad to see something like this happen senselessly, but it has been heartwarming to see the community come together and remember him,” he added.
After some work in television, Walker’s film career began with a number of supporting roles in films such as “Varsity Blues” and “Pleasantville.” In 2001, his breakthrough role in “The Fast and the Furious” earned him national recognition and established the actor as a genuine movie star. He would go on to appear in a number of films in the “Fast and Furious” franchise and had begun filming its seventh installment before his passing.
The deaths of both Walker and Rodas were ruled accidents by the Los Angeles County Coroner with a toxicology report set to follow in six to eight weeks.
The possibility of drag racing with another vehicle was ruled out in this case but investigators believe that speed was a factor in the collision.
A press release by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office confirmed that both Walker and Rodas died of their injuries from the vehicle accident and resulting fire. The site of the accident, on Rye Canyon Loop in Valencia is notorious for incidents of high-speed car racing. Sheriff’s deputies have cracked down on speeding drivers in the area as recently as two years ago.