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Paul Walker memorial draws fans from afar

Chris Harrel and his friend Conner Eddy of Washington state braved a 20-hour drive through ice and snow in order to make it to Sunday’s memorial for “Fast and Furious” actor Paul Walker in Valencia.

Harrel, 20, and Eddy, 16, stopped to fill up their 2003 blue Mitsubishi Evolution VIII five times, and one other time to play in the snow. But they never slept.

They arrived in Valencia on Sunday at 5 a.m.

"All the guys out here wanted to be like him," Harrel said of Walker, adding that he looked up to the actor for his life on and off camera.

The “Fast and the Furious” movies influenced the body kits fans chose, the lights, the cars, everything, he said. He bought his own car because Walker drove one in the second installment of the film series.

Harrel said people thought he was crazy for making the trip, but he saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pay his respects to one of his favorite actors.

"I'll be into cars until I can't drive one anymore," said Harrel, who works at a body shop.

Harrel and Eddy were among hundreds of fans who attended the memorial rally and car cruise at the site where Walker and his friend Roger Rodas were killed Nov. 30. Walker, 40, and Rodas, 38, died when Rodas crashed his 2005 Porsche Carrera GT into a pole and a tree and the vehicle exploded in flames. Walker was a passenger in the vehicle.

The two had decided to go for a ride in the 600-horsepower car after attending a charity event sponsored by Reach Out Worldwide, Walker's nonprofit organization that provides assistance for disaster victims around the globe.

Walker died from a combination of injuries and burns suffered in the crash, according to coroner's officials. Rodas' death was the result of "multiple traumatic injuries."

L.A. County sheriff's officials said speed was a factor in the crash, but there was no evidence the pair were involved in a street race.

Among those who attended Sunday’s memorial were members of the Southern California chapter of Gawad Kalinga, an international nonprofit that builds homes and provides aid to the Philippines, who also came to pay their respects.

"The people there love him, he has so many fans in the Philippines," said Tony Pascau, 67, a local representative of the nonprofit. One organization can't do it alone, he said, adding that what struck him most was that Walker's group was on the ground providing aid.

Luzviminda Micabalo, president of the Philippine American Charity Foundation, said she and her husband came from Las Vegas on Saturday night to attend the gathering.

Investigators are still trying to determine exactly what caused the crash and whether there was possible mechanical failure, causing Rodas to lose control.

The results of toxicology tests were not expected for six to eight weeks.

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samantha.schaefer@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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