"Fast and Furious" actor Paul Walker was recalled by colleagues this week as the heart and soul of his Burbank-based charity, traveling "under the radar" to help clear debris and render aid inside disaster zones.
Authorities continued to investigate what caused the crash of the 2005 red Porsche Carrera GT that Walker and his friend, Roger Rodas, were riding in Santa Clarita on Saturday. The high-performance car slammed into a tree and concrete pole on Hercules Street about 3:30 p.m., bursting into flames and killing both men.
Representatives at his charity, Reach Out Worldwide, described Walker as dedicated and hard-working.
“Paul was an honorable, hard-working, dedicated, respectful man with a humble spirit who shared his blessings with those who needed it most,” J.D. Dorfman, operations manager for the nonprofit, said in a statement to the Burbank Leader.
After an earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, Walker, a Glendale native, assembled a team of first responders and headed to the hardest hit areas of the country to deliver supplies and medical aid.
“He took a team there, out of his own pocket,” Dorfman said in a phone interview Monday. “He saw the need, he saw the destruction and saw that he could do good.”
After the trip, Walker founded the nonprofit, a mobile first-aid organization that includes a network of volunteer first responders – doctors, nurses, firefighters, paramedics, construction specialists and heavy equipment operators – who respond immediately to national and international disasters.
That same year, he traveled with a team to Chile, delivering water and medical aid to earthquake and tsunami victims.
When a tornado hit Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 2011, Walker headed to the state “under the radar” and helped victims get back into their homes by running a chainsaw to clear debris.
“He didn’t want anyone to know he was there. All he wanted was a chainsaw, and point him in the right direction – he wanted to go to work,” Dorfman said, adding that the actor did far more than write checks. “Paul’s fingers were as dirty as yours were.”
On Saturday, Walker, 40, was attending a Reach Out Worldwide toy drive, through which $150,000 worth of toys and gifts were collected for local underprivileged children and victims of domestic violence, Dorfman said.
Walker and Rodas took the Porsche out for a drive as the event was winding down. A short time later, witnesses heard a loud boom. Smoke was visible from Always Evolving Performance Motors, a shop owned by Rodas located around the corner from the crash site.
An outpouring of support for the charity has since come in from fans and fellow actors, Dorfman said.
The team that volunteered for the nonprofit was “stunned and saddened beyond belief” by the news of Walker's death.
Alene Tchekmedyian is a Times Community News staff writer.