Investigators find unsafe speed caused Walker crash
By Justin Pritchard, AP
March 27, 2014, 12:01 am TWN
LOS ANGELES -- The Porsche carrying “Fast & Furious” star Paul Walker was traveling up to 151 kph when it went out of control on a suburban street and crashed, killing the actor and his friend, according to an investigation by law enforcement agencies into the November accident.
The sports car driven by Roger Rodas slammed into a light pole with a 45 mph (72 kph) speed limit sign and burst into flames. Walker and Rodas died at the scene.
Investigators with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and California Highway Patrol concluded that unsafe speed, not mechanical problems, caused the Nov. 30 crash, the sheriff's department said Tuesday.
Based on post-crash calculations, accident reconstruction specialists with the Highway Patrol believe Rodas was driving his 2005 Porsche Carrera GT between 130 kph and 151 kph, according to their investigative report. The CHP declined comment.
The Associated Press reported in December that investigators had found no evidence that the car had mechanical problems and had ruled out debris or other roadway conditions.
Subsequently, Porsche sent engineers to California to review the rare car's wreckage. Though it was badly mangled and burned, the engineers were able to do a thorough analysis. They found no problems with the car's electrical systems, brakes, throttle, fuel system, steering, suspension or other systems.
“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,” Porsche said in a written statement. “We stand by our Carrera GT and by the investigation.”
The conclusion about the speed was based on a “yaw” mark that one of the car's tires left on the road in an area of industrial office parks in Santa Clarita, about 50 kilometers northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Witnesses told a sheriff's deputy that they thought the car could have been traveling in excess of 160 kph.
Post-crash investigators noted several issues with the condition of the car, which had logged just 5,364 kilometers as of September despite having several prior owners, including IndyCar driver Graham Rahal:
— Its original exhaust system had been modified in a way that could allow it to go faster.
— Its left front and right rear tires were about nine years old; the owner's manual suggests changing the tires after four years. As a result of the age, “the drivability and handling characteristics ... may have been compromised,” the report said.
— The car's left rear brake rotor was worn below manufacturer specifications, but that did not contribute to the crash.
Rodas, 38, and Walker, 40, had taken what was supposed to be a quick ride on a clear afternoon from a fundraiser benefiting Reach Out Worldwide, a Walker charity that gives first-response aid to victims of natural disasters. The crash occurred near the fundraiser, and horrified friends of the men raced to the scene.
An unidentified witness said she saw the Porsche “'jiggling' back and forth in (its) lane like the driver was jiggling the steering” just before the crash, according to the report.
Autopsies showed that neither man had used alcohol or drugs. Investigators found evidence suggesting both wore seat belts and air bags deployed for both the driver and passenger, the sheriff's department said.
While Rodas was Walker's financial adviser, the two had bonded over their shared love of fast cars. They co-owned an auto racing team named after Rodas' shop, Always Evolving, and Rodas drove professionally for the team on the Pirelli World Challenge circuit in 2013.
Walker starred in all but one of the six “Fast & Furious” blockbuster films, which glorify muscular cars and risky driving.