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Paul Walker crash: 93-mph speed to blame

Wed, 26 Mar 2014

The investigation into the Porsche Carrera GT crash that led to the deaths of actor Paul Walker and Roger Rodas has been completed. Unsafe driving, rather than a fault with the car or the road surface, has been named as the cause.

Walker and Rodas were killed when their Porsche Carrera GT skidded off the road in a Los Angeles-area business park on Nov. 30, 2013, when the pair was returning from a nearby charity event. Early reports indicated that the car had left the road, striking a tree and a light pole, and it caught fire moments later.

An examination determined that both Walker and Rodas were killed almost instantly, even though both wore seatbelts and both airbags deployed. Witnesses arrived on the scene within minutes of the accident, but the car was completely engulfed by fire.

Investigators used footage from nearby closed-circuit security cameras, along with the car's computers, to establish that the Porsche Carrera GT driven by Rodas was traveling at 93 mph when it left the roadway.

"Investigators determined the cause of the fatal solo-vehicle collision was unsafe speed for the roadway conditions," said commander Mike Parker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Porsche also issued a statement in response to speculation that the crash might have occurred as a result of a mechanical or design fault with the Carrera GT.

"We appreciate the meticulous analysis by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the California Highway Patrol," the company said in a statement distributed to the media. "It is a sad day for us whenever anyone is injured in one of our cars, and this was a particularly tragic event. At the same time, the results of the investigation show that, according to all the available evidence, this crash was caused by dangerous driving at speeds much too high for the road in question. There is also evidence that this particular vehicle had been altered from its original design state and had not been maintained properly. However, there is no evidence of any mechanical malfunction. We stand by our Carrera GT and by the investigation and conclusions of the responsible authorities."

Walker and Rodas were driving back from a charity event in the area of the business park where the crash took place.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department also noted that a pair of 9-year-old tires on the car contributed to the crash, though they did not point out any other mechanical issues or mention in detail how much tread remained on the tires. The investigators also did not state to what degree the 9-year-old tires contributed to the car's loss of control. Skid marks near the scene of the accident showed that the car was swerving at the time it left the roadway on a curved section of the four-lane road near the business park.

Investigators also ruled out involvement of other vehicles, putting to rest speculation that the pair might have been racing another car at the time of the crash.

The Sheriff's Department concluded that both Walker and Rodas succumbed to injuries almost instantly before the fire took hold of the vehicle and that the remains of both men were found braced for impact in a "pugilistic" stance inside the vehicle.

The deaths of both men over Thanksgiving weekend shook the sports-car community as well as fans of the "Fast and Furious" film series, with thousands of fans along with Walker's castmates making their way to the Santa Clarita office park days later to remember Walker and Rodas.

Despite Walker's death, Universal Studios has decided to proceed with production and release of the seventh installment in the "Fast and Furious" franchise, due in April 2015, having rewritten the script to retire Walker's character from the series.

By Jay Ramey