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UPDATE: Paul Walker-Roger Rodas memorial event draws thousands

Event takes on parade-like quality as family, friends, fans pay respects

Posted: December 8, 2013 10:59 p.m.
Updated: December 8, 2013 10:59 p.m.

A man videotapes the street-side memorial for actor Paul Walker and businessman Roger Rodas that has been growing since Sunday's event begain. Signal photo by Jim Holt

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An estimated 6,000 people converged on Valencia Sunday for a memorial to “Fast & Furious” star Paul Walker and his friend Roger Rodas, jamming traffic around the crash site where the two men died more than a week ago.

Although the memorial was scheduled for noon, they began arriving on Kelly Johnson Parkway in the Rye Canyon Business Park before the sun came up — friends, family and fans of the movie franchise that celebrates fast cars and fast action, along with car enthusiasts of every stripe.

Organized through social media and with no clear schedule of events, the memorial turned into an automotive parade after law enforcement, anticipating the crowds, turned streets in the area into one-way thoroughfares.

Thousands lined part of Kelly Johnson Parkway behind barricades as if awaiting a parade, and car owners cooperated by circling the loop through the business park that Walker and Rodas circled in the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT that crashed Nov. 30, killing both.

“I like cars and stuff. Mustangs — I’m into Mustangs,” said Carlos Corrales, who, with his friend Omar Hernandez, arrived in Valencia at 7 a.m. to stand at the side of the road as sports cars, motorcycles, Volkswagen Beetles and muscle cars paraded by, many revving their engines in front of the memorial to the two men.

“There’s a lot of loud cars,” Corrales said.

One celebrity sent her condolences by air message using a plane that pulled a sign: “R.I.P.God be with Fast & Furious star Paul Walker. Our hearts go out to his friends and family, Paris Hilton.”

Rumors that actors who co-starred with Walker in the movie series — most notably Vin Diesel — would be attending the memorial Sunday quickly circulated among the crowd, but no such appearance materialized.

Christmas tree

A memorial shrine where fans had left candles, written messages and small gifts since the afternoon of the men’s deaths grew considerably Sunday with fresh offerings.

Shortly before noon, one man pulled up with a Christmas tree tied to the top of his SUV.

Patrick Yanez said a home improvement store agreed to donate the tree to be erected in the middle of the expanding shrine of candles, photos and flowers.

“I wanted to do something for the gang here, and especially for the two who died,” Yanez said.

Those at the shrine clapped and whistled when Yanez set up the tree and wished everyone a “merry Christmas.”

Saugus High School student Davis Mendez was one of those who helped decorate the tree. “I felt honored,” he said. “The least I could do was give back. It was amazing.

“Everybody here cares about (Walker) and this guy actually brought a tree in for him.”

Typhoon relief

NorthPark Community Church, located within the loop blocked off for one-way traffic Sunday, opened its parking lot for visitors and served hot chocolate. Many other parking lots in the area were barricaded to visitors.

With law enforcement officers enforcing no-parking laws, some visitors to the memorial event parked a mile or more away and walked to the scene.

Visitors to the church parking lot were invited to sign a giant poster fastened to the side of a truck.

A group representing a Philippines relief organization stood near the crash site holding a sign thanking Walker for helping the Philippines after a typhoon ravaged part of the country last month.

Walker was at a benefit for the typhoon in Valencia last week when the crash occurred.

“We’re here because of the generosity of Paul Walker helping typhoon victims,” said Tony Pascua, Santa Clarita area coordinator for the group Gawad Kalinga, a non-profit that helps build homes in the Philippines.

He said his organization hoped that it could partner with Walker’s Reach Out Worldwide charityorganization to further help the Philippines.

That organization, Walker’s Reach Out Worldwide, was also on hand for the event.

Driving safety

Jose Valencia, who made the journey from Rancho Cucamonga to attend the memorial, said Walker’s death saddened him.

“I wanted to pay my respects and be part of the condolences for Paul Walker,” he said. “He’s a really great actor. It’s just so sad.”

Valencia said he took some solace in the fact that producers of the popular “Fast & Furious” films included cautionary warnings about driving safety in the movie credits before and after each film.

And for one wheelchair-bound visitor who became handicapped from injuries suffered in a motorcycle crash, the issue of driving safely resonates deeply.

“Something kind of touched me when I went through my ordeal,” David Reyna said after visiting the roadside shrine. “I thought at the time that if I had one more moment to tell my daughter I love her, I would.

“Unfortunately, Paul Walker wasn’t able to do that,” Reyna said.

Reyna was among a group that from Visalia that drove to Valencia to pay their respects.

“We wanted to come out and show our support since (enthusiasm for cars) is getting a lot of negativity,” he said.

Walker, 40, and Rodas, 38, were killed when the Porsche driven by Rodas smashed into a light pole and tree and then burst into flames Nov. 30. Friends say the two took the Porsche out for a “joy ride” near the end of a fundraiser for typhoon relief. Authorities say speed was a factor in the crash, but the speed at which they believe the Porsche was traveling has not been released.

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

Walker and Rodas 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.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested only one person at Sunday’s event, said Lt. Tom Bryski of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. Kyle Roberts, 29, of Arizona, was arrested on suspicion of possessing a loaded firearm in public, he said.

Signal Executive Editor Jason Schaff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

jholt@signalscv.com
661-287-5527
on Twitter
@jamesarthurholt

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