When he first heard the news Saturday about the fiery car crash that killed “Fast and Furious” actor Paul Walker, fan Joel Perez, thought it was a hoax.
On Sunday morning, the 23-year-old visited the crash site in Valencia to see a makeshift memorial for himself.
"He's the reason I got into cars when I was 11," said Perez, who bought his Mitsubishi Evo because Walker drove a similar car in the second installment of the “Fast and Furious” franchise. "He's gone, but he'll never be forgotten because there are so many people that look up to him.”
Fans gathered Sunday to pay their respects to Walker, 40, and his friend, whom a witness identified as Roger Rodas, owner of Always Evolving Performance Motors, who were killed in the crash Saturday afternoon.
Sheriff's officials said speed may have been a factor in the single-vehicle crash, which occurred about 3:30 p.m. on Hercules Street, a normally quiet street with a 45-mph speed limit. The car was thrown over a tree and a struck a concrete lamp post.
Walker was apparently the passenger in the 2005 red Porsche Carrera GT, which was badly bent and burned.
Dozens of Walker's fans and friends visited the crash site Sunday, including Tyrese Gibson, Walker's co-star in the "Fast and Furious" film series.
Gerson Camey went to the site Saturday after his shift at a nearby pizzeria. He shed a few tears when he saw the mangled red Porsche. He was the first to leave a rose at what would become a growing memorial.
Camey returned Sunday to collect remnants of the car, including a piece of red metal from the car’s shell for a memorial to the actor in his home.
"I'm going to miss him, and he'll always be in our hearts," he said. "The movies won't be the same."
George Ortiz, 56, another fan, said he came to the site to pay tribute to one of his favorite actors. He said he's seen all of Walker’s movies and that the actor reminded him of “a young Paul Newman.”
"His roles always suited him perfectly because he was such a diverse actor," Ortiz said.
Ortiz placed a few DVDs at the memorial as he knelt to pay his respects. He said he was impressed by "what a great guy" Walker was and because he didn’t flaunt the charities he supported. Walker had attended an event earlier to aid Filipino victims of Typhoon Haiyan for his organization Reach Out Worldwide, formed in 2010 as a quick-response first-aid organization.
"It's tough knowing that he's gone," he said.
Those who worked with Walker remembered him as good natured and hard working and “more than just a good-looking guy” in action films, said Peter Safran, producer of the “Hours,” which starred Walker and was set to be released this month. The film, about a father trying to keep his newborn daughter alive in an abandoned hospital in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, was going to show viewers a new side to Walker.
“He was the most un-Hollywood Hollywood star I had ever met, no attitude, no ego,” Safran told The Times on Sunday. “He always felt that he was very fortunate with his life, and it was important for him to give back.”
JD Dorfman, operations manager for Reach Out Worldwide, said the "Fast and Furious" actor led by example. He was on the ground helping bring water and medical aid after the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, and helped people get back into their homes after the tornadoes in Alabama in April 2011 by clearing debris with a chainsaw.
He was the “first one in and the last one out,” and the heart and soul of the organization he founded, Dorfman said.
"Some people play a hero, Paul was a hero," Dorfman said in an email. "Paul was an honorable, hardworking, dedicated, respectful man with a humble spirit who shared his blessings with those who needed it most."
Safran learned about Walker’s death through the film’s publicist Saturday.
“I was in shock and despair,” he said. “He was one of the good guys.”
In addition to being a “gear head,” Walker loved the outdoors, whether it was surfing, mountain climbing or hiking.
“I never saw him happier than when we went on safari for a couple of days while shooting in South Africa,” said Safran, who first met Walker while shooting another movie in 2011 in Johannesburg.
Walker had attended a charity event and car show held in support of his relief organization before he and Rodas decided to go for a ride in the Porsche. The event was one of many that Rodas helped put on each month, said Jim Torp, who has worked with the shop for several years. Proceeds are to be donated to families affected by the typhoon in the Philippines and a tornado in Indiana, Torp said.
After the crash, Torp, his son and nearly two dozen others rushed to the site with fire extinguishers to try and save the men from the burning vehicle.
Officials at the scene held back a childhood friend of Walker from pulling the actor’s body from the burning car. Firefighters also kept Rodas’ young son away from the wreckage, Torp said.
"They just didn't want to believe this happened," Torp told fans and media at the crash site on Sunday. "It was 'Fast and the Furious,' that's what it is. Both race car enthusiasts, both loved speed, both knew how to handle cars, and this had to happen."
Copyright © 2015, CT Now