Fans pay tribute to 'Fast & Furious' actor Paul Walker and Roger Rodas

The fast and furious became the solemn and reverential Sunday as hundreds of fans and mourners met in Valencia to pay tribute to the memory of actor Paul Walker and Roger Rodas, killed Nov. 30 in a car crash.

Under cold but clear skies, a line of muscle cars and motorcycles made a slow procession through the industrial park where the accident took place. Messages honoring Walker were spray-painted on their windows. One car had a funeral wreath, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Billed as a memorial rally and car cruise, the gathering gave fans an opportunity to remember Walker, 40, whose fame as an undercover detective in the "Fast & Furious" film franchise made him beloved to millions, and celebrate the high-octane culture of tuner cars.

Overhead, two small planes flew by, trailed by banners reading, "R.I.P. God be with Fast and Furious star Paul Walker" and "Our Hearts go out to his Family and Friends."

With engines revving and echoing between warehouses, enthusiasts crowded around parked vehicles featured in the "Fast & Furious" franchise, hoods propped open for inspection. There was the blue Nissan Skyline driven by Walker in "Fast Four." There was the yellow Mazda RX7 from "Tokyo Drift."

Some came alone, and some came in caravans. Jenna Catic, 24, led a pack of 15 cars from Phoenix. For Catic, Walker was more than just an actor.

"He was part of our lifestyle," she said.

Snow and ice weren't about to stop Chris Harrel, 20, and Conner Eddy, 16, who made the 20-hour drive from the Seattle area. Their ride was in a 2003 Mitsubishi Evolution VIII, similar to the car Walker drove in "2 Fast 2 Furious." Friends said they were crazy for making the trip, but they saw it as their only opportunity to pay their respects to an actor they looked up to.

"All the guys out here wanted to be like him," Harrel said.

Some milled around the crash site; some climbed a ladder to add their names to a large memorial canvas, stretched over the side of a big-rig trailer and featuring pictures of Walker and Rodas.

"Unfortunately, we're here for a tragic reason, but it's an opportunity" for car enthusiasts to show off their vehicles, said Davin Smith, 31, who was joined by his girlfriend, Yoli Perez, 21.

Racing enthusiasts Anthony and Robert Benavides joined nearly 100 other drivers from Oxnard. Even as the brothers wore sweatshirts that honored Walker and Rodas ("If one day the speed kills me, do not cry because I was smiling," it said on the back of the shirts), they also acknowledged the dangers of what some call "the drifting life."

"This is a reality check to everyone here," said Anthony, 22. "My mom told me every day since I was a kid, 'What you're building is a weapon.'"

Walker's death has been compared to that of James Dean, who was also killed in a car accident at the height of his popularity. Walker is credited with kindling a love of automobiles and racing among his fans.

"We share the same passion as he did," said Zach Willason, 20, who drove his Hyundai Genesis coupe from UC Santa Barbara.

The occasion gave Juan Coscarart, 31, the opportunity to show off his replica of the 1994 Toyota Supra that was featured in the franchise's first film. Coscarart, a contractor for Southern California Edison, spent four years — and more than 1,000 hours — working on the car, which he says is identical to the original, down to the decals.

Stepping to the memorial canvas, Coscarart added his own homage to Walker. "I built my Supra because of you," he wrote.

At the time of his death, Walker had been attending a toy drive and a benefit sponsored by his philanthropic organization, Reach Out Worldwide, to aid victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The event was held at the racing shop Always Evolving Performance Motors, where Rodas was chief executive.

Afterward, Walker and Rodas went for a drive. About 3:30 p.m., the $400,000 car with a 600-horsepower engine, driven by Rodas, 38, slammed into a concrete light pole and a tree and burst into flames.

Walker and Rodas were declared dead at the scene.

Among those who attended Sunday's memorial were members of the Southern California chapter of Gawad Kalinga, an international nonprofit that builds homes and provides aid to the Philippines, who also came to pay their respects.

"The people there love him, he has so many fans in the Philippines," said Tony Pascua, a representative of the nonprofit's local chapter, which is working to get a village dedicated to Walker.

Luzviminda Micabalo, president of the Philippine American Charity Foundation, said she and her husband, Zosimo, traveled from Las Vegas to Valencia to attend the gathering. "If he wasn't raising funds that day, he would probably be here," Zosimo said.

Investigators are still determining the cause of the crash, and whether there was a possible mechanical failure that caused Rodas to lose control. Sheriff's officials said speed was a factor, but there was no evidence the pair were involved in a street race. The results of toxicology tests are not expected for six to eight weeks.

Both men were friends, drawn together by their love of fast cars. Several years ago they participated in a 25-hour endurance race in which they teamed with two professional drivers.

Walker was preparing to resume production on "Fast & Furious 7" in Atlanta, which Universal Pictures placed on an extended hiatus. The film series has grossed $2.3 billion worldwide.

Walker, who grew up in Glendale and was known for his blue eyes and endearing smile, came to fame as a pinup idol and an actor in a number of teen movies before being cast in 2001 in "The Fast and the Furious."

As the day came to a close, some fans seemed reluctant to leave, pausing at the crash site. The parkway — its trees bearing the last of their autumn leaves — was covered with hundreds of bouquets and votive candles. Earlier in the week, the memorial had included toy cars, a green bottle of Castrol motor oil and a wooden sign with the "The Racer's Prayer."

Lord I pray as I race today

Keep me safe along the way…

-- Samantha Schaefer, James Barragan and Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times

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