Walker memorial to draw thousands

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Monday, December 9, 2013

SANTA CLARITA, California -- The sounds of high-performance car engines filled the air Sunday as fans, friends and car enthusiasts headed to the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita to pay tribute to Paul Walker at the site where the "Fast & Furious" actor died in a car crash.

The memorial, planned through social media, was scheduled to begin at noon, but people began arriving hours beforehand to leave flowers, candles and other tributes. Authorities expect several thousand people to attend.

Many arrived in cars built for speed, and the sounds of engines revving echoed close to where Walker and his friend died on November 30. The event was expected to conclude Sunday evening with a cruise through the area 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Walker, 40, was killed when the Porsche Carrera GT he was riding in smashed into a light pole and tree and then burst into flames. The actor's friend and financial adviser, Roger Rodas, who was driving, also died. Authorities said speed was a factor in the crash.

The two had bonded over a passion for fast cars. They co-owned an auto racing team named after Rodas' custom car shop, Always Evolving, and Rodas, 38, drove professionally for the team on the Pirelli World Challenge circuit this year.

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies planned to have a strong presence at the memorial. They encouraged attendees to obey all traffic laws, including not leaving memorial items in the roadway.

Many of the early arrivals parked in a nearby church lot, where they milled around and bundled up against chilly morning temperatures in the 40s Fahrenheit (single digits Celsius).

Walker was in Santa Clarita for a fundraiser for his charity, Reach Out Worldwide, organized for victims of the recent Philippines typhoon. The event took place at Rodas' shop, and the two stepped away for what was supposed to be a short drive in Rodas' car.

The limited-edition Porsche was previously owned by IndyCar driver Graham Rahal, who has said it could be difficult to drive.

Walker, the star of five of the six "Fast & Furious" movies, was the face of the franchise. He was making the seventh film in the series when he died.

Universal Pictures has shut down production while it contemplates how it might go forward without him. (AP)

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