This Saturday, “Fast & Furious” Star Paul Walker and part-time race car driver Roger Rodas were killed in California car crash when the Porsche Carrera GT they were riding struck a tree and a light pole, prompting the vehicle to burst into flames. According to a preliminary autopsy report from the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office, Walker died from multiple thermal and traumatic injuries—meaning he was still alive after impact but died in the fire. Meantime, Rodas, who was driving, died from traumatic injuries.
Right now, the cause of the single-car crash has not been confirmed. Authorities, however, have ruled out drag racing even though speed is still thought to have been a factor. According to witnesses, the vehicle was moving at a much faster speed than the road limit of 45 mph. A fluid leak also has been ruled out. Questions as to whether an auto defect was involved have not yet been answered.
This particular Porsche is known as being very hard to handle. A number of race car drivers have said they’d experienced stability problems with the Carrera GT and its V-10, 610-horsepower engine—that’s three times the horsepower found in most vehicles. This Porsche can go up to 208 mph and it makes turns faster than most autos. On CNN.com, Car and Driver magazine Editor-in-Chief Eddie Alterman is quoted as calling the Porsche Carrera GT not a “super car” but a “hyper car.”
Walker and Rodas are not the first to die while riding in one. In 2005, Corey Rudl and Ben Keaton died while in a Carrera GT at the California Speedway. Keaton, who was driving the Porsche, swerved so as not to hit another vehicle, but then lost control of the car, which rammed into a retaining wall. At the time the vehicle was moving at 130 mph.
Rudl’s widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the organizers of the event, the facility, the estate of Keaton, and Porsche. Alleging auto products liability against the automaker, the plaintiff’s auto defects lawyer says that the Carrera GT is designed in a way that makes it dangerous to drive. He noted that this particular type of Porsche does not have a computerized system that oversees the accelerator, brake, and steering outputs or helps to stabilize the car during any sudden swerves or abrupt movements. (According to DailyNews.com, a number of Carrera GT drivers have confirmed that this lack of an electronic stability control system has sometimes made it had to keep the vehicle steady in certain situations.)
Rudl’s family secured a $4.5 million wrongful death settlement, including $350,000 from Porsche. The automaker, however, denied liability. (In 2004, Porsche reportedly sent a letter to car dealers cautioning that not just anyone could driver the Carrera GT and that the vehicle needed to be handled in a specific manner in order for it to be driven safely.(
If an auto defect or auto parts malfunction was the cause of Saturday’s car crash that killed Walker and Rodas, their families could have grounds for a product defects case against Porsche and/or others.