Fast & Furious actor Paul Walker died from multiple injuries in a weekend car crash, the Los Angeles County coroner said on Wednesday, as Universal Pictures suspended production of the seventh installment in its lucrative car racing film franchise. Walker, 40, was a passenger in a fiery one-car crash on Saturday in Santa Clarita, California, about 30 miles (50 km) northwest of Los Angeles, that also killed 38-year-old driver Roger Rodas.
The coroner said Walker's death resulted from traumatic and thermal injuries. Thermal injuries are heat related and are commonly burns. Universal, owned by Comcast Corp, said filming of the big-budget action movie has been put on hold for an unspecified amount of time as it decides how to continue production without Walker. "At this time we feel it is our responsibility to shut down production on Fast & Furious 7 for a period of time so we can assess all options available to move forward with the franchise," Universal Pictures said in a statement.
The film, which began production in September, was on schedule to be released in theaters on July 11, 2014. Rodas, the owner of a local auto dealership and racing services company Always Evolving who was behind the wheel of the Porsche Carrera GT, died of multiple traumatic injuries, the coroner said. The coroner ruled that both deaths were accidents and said that the injuries occurred when the car struck a fixed object. Both Walker and Rodas died "within seconds" after impact, coroner spokesman Ed Winter told the Los Angeles Times. Winter was unavailable for comment.
Surveillance video shows the red Porsche crashing into a utility pole and bursting into flames about a minute later, according to footage shown on CNN. The autopsies of Walker and Rodas were delayed as the coroner's office needed dental records to identify the bodies. Toxicology reports on the bodies will be completed in six to eight weeks, the coroner's office said. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said on Sunday that speed played a role in the crash but has ruled out the possibility that the pair were street racing. The Sheriff's investigation into the crash is expected to be completed in the coming days.
Walker became a symbol of street-racing and car culture in his role as law enforcement officer Brian O'Conner in the Fast & Furious series, which has grossed more than $2 billion at the global box office since its debut in 2001. Walker, who played supporting roles in 1998's Pleasantville and 1999's Varsity Blues, was in five of the six Fast & Furious films about illegal street racing, heists and organized crime. Walker also starred in the Hurricane Katrina survival drama Hours, which will be released on Dec. 13, and the crime drama "Brick Mansions," which is in post-production and will be released next year.