Paul Walker, 'Fast and Furious' star, dies in California car crash, rep confirms

VALENCIA, Calif. - A publicist for actor Paul Walker says the star of the "Fast & Furious" movie series has died in a car crash north of Los Angeles. He was 40.

Walker died Saturday afternoon, Ame Van Iden told the Associated Press.

A statement on Walker's verified Facebook page said Walker was a passenger in a friend's car, and that the crash happened while he was attending a charity event.

"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 organization Reach Out Worldwide. 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," the statement read.

A friend, Bill Townsend, posted on Walker's Facebook page: "I was with Paul today. He was surrounded by friends, talking about cars, seeing hundreds of gifts brought for kids to give out by charity. The news is terribly sad. The world lost an angel and Heaven gained one. I'm going to commit to helping ensure the Paul's charity lives on and that his love of cars and people, especially children, will be remembered forever."

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's department said the crash happened in community of Valencia at about 3:30 p.m.. The Santa Clarita Signal reports a red Porsche crashed into a light pole and tree and burst into flames.  The bodies of two people were found in the wreckage after the fire was put out.

Walker was working on "Fast & Furious 7" at the time of his death. He also starred in the suspense drama, "Hours," which is set for release this month.

Walker rode the "Fast & Furious" franchise to stardom, starring in all but one of the six action blockbusters, beginning with the first film in 2001. The blond-haired, blue-eyed Los Angeles-native brought California surfer good-looks and an easy, warm charm to the popular street-racing series.

"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 and Furious' films, and to countless fans."

The son of a fashion model and a sewer contractor, Walker grew up in a working class, Mormon Los Angeles household. The oldest of five siblings, Walker's mother began taking him to auditions as a toddler. He was a child model beginning at the age of 2.

Walker has said the early induction to show business wasn't to start him on a career path, but as a way to help provide for the family.

After a string of TV roles as a child in the `80s, Walker made his feature film debut in the 1998 comedy "Meet the Deedles." Supporting roles in the films "Pleasantville," "Varsity Blues" and "She's All That" followed.

His performance in the 2000 thriller "The Skulls" caught the eye of producer Neal H. Moritz, who cast him in "The Fast and the Furious" as undercover police officer Brian O'Conner. Adapted from a Vibe magazine article about underground street races, the film became an unexpected hit.

In the sequel, "2 Fast 2 Furious," Walker moved to center stage with his co-star Vin Diesel momentarily dropping out. Walker, a self-described "gearhead," kept his character's sports car from the film.

Walker starred in other films, including the crime thriller "Running Scared," the Antarctic adventure "Eight Below" and the heist film "Takers." Though his stardom didn't make as much of an impact outside the "Fast & Furious" series, Walker continually drew praise from his co-stars and directors as a kind-hearted and eager collaborator.

And "Fast & Furious" proved unusually enduring. Released in May, "Fast & Furious 6" was the most lucrative of them all, grossing more than $788 million worldwide. The seventh installment began shooting in September, with a release planned for July.

"Your humble spirit was felt from the start," said Ludacris, Walker's "Fast & Furious" co-star, on Twitter. "Wherever you blessed your presence you always left a mark, we were like brothers."

Walker is survived by his 15-year-old daughter.

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