Paul Walker, one of the stars of the popular Fast and Furious fast-car action movies, died in an auto crash on Saturday, his publicists said on his social media accounts.
"It is with a truly heavy heart that we must confirm that Paul Walker passed away today in a tragic car accident while attending a charity event for his organization Reach Out Worldwide," read the posting on the actor's
"He was a passenger in a friend's car, in which both lost their lives." The publicists, who described themselves as Team PW, wrote that they were "stunned and saddened beyond belief by this news."
"All of us at Universal are heartbroken," Universal Pictures said in a statement. "Paul was truly one of the most beloved and respected members of our studio family for 14 years, and this loss is devastating to us, to everyone involved with the 'Fast and Furious' films, and to countless fans."
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said that deputies found a car engulfed in flames when they responded to a report of a collision in the community of Valencia. Two people who were found in the car were pronounced dead at the scene.
The Santa Clarita Signal reports a red Porsche crashed into a light pole and tree and burst into flames.
Walker, 40, was best known for his role as undercover agent Brian O'Connor in the Fast and Furious movies. He was working on Fast & Furious 7 at the time of his death. He also starred in the suspense drama, Hours, which is set for release this month.
He appeared in all but one of the six movies in the series, and was one of the leading protagonists along with Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez. The blond-haired, blue-eyed Los Angeles-native brought California surfer good-looks and an easy, warm charm to the popular street-racing series.
The son of a fashion model and a sewer contractor, Walker grew up in a working class, Mormon Los Angeles household. The oldest of five siblings, Walker's mother began taking him to auditions as a toddler. He was a child model beginning at the age of 2.
Walker has said the early induction to show business wasn't to start him on a career path, but as a way to help provide for the family.
After a string of TV roles as a child in the '80s, Walker made his feature film debut in the 1998 comedy Meet the Deedles. Supporting roles in the films Pleasantville, 'Varsity Blues and She's All That followed.
His performance in the 2000 thriller The Skulls caught the eye of producer Neal H. Moritz, who cast him in
as undercover police officer Brian O'Conner. Adapted from a Vibe magazine article about underground street races, the film became an unexpected hit.
In the sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Walker moved to center stage with his co-star Vin Diesel momentarily dropping out. Walker, a self-described "gearhead," kept his character's sports car from the film.
Walker starred in other films, including the crime thriller Running Scared, the Antarctic adventure Eight Below and the heist film Takers. Though his stardom didn't make as much of an impact outside the Fast & Furious series, Walker continually drew praise from his co-stars and directors as a kind-hearted and eager collaborator.
And Fast & Furious proved unusually enduring. Released in May,
was the most lucrative of them all, grossing more than $788 million worldwide. The seventh installment began shooting in September, with a release planned for July.
Walker is survived by his 15-year-old daughter. Walker died in Los Angeles county when the car he was traveling in slammed into a tree and caught fire, US media reported.
More tributes flowed on social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
RIP Paul Walker,loved working with you on "Into the Blue". I Will miss you.— Tyson Beckford (@TysonCBeckford) December 1, 2013
Your humble spirit was felt from the start, wherever you blessed your presence you always left a mark,… http://t.co/nUiPPIU9Bb— Ludacris (@Ludacris) December 1, 2013
Sick about the tragic loss of #PaulWalker. I enjoyed our time together very much. Such a really nice guy. Prayers to his family and friends.— Carson Daly (@CarsonDaly) December 1, 2013
(With inputs from AP, AFP)