VALENCIA (CBSLA.com/AP) — The sounds of high-performance car engines filled the air Sunday as thousands of fans, friends and car enthusiasts headed to Valencia to pay tribute to Paul Walker at the site where the “Fast & Furious” actor died in a car crash.
The memorial, planned through social media, was scheduled to begin at noon, but mourners began arriving hours beforehand to leave flowers, candles, stuffed animals and other tributes. Throughout the afternoon, thousands of people, including entire families with children, dropped by.
A sheriff’s department spokesperson told CBS2’s Greg Mills as many as 5,000 people attended the memorial.
Many arrived in cars built for speed, and the sounds of engines revving echoed close to where Walker and his friend died on Nov. 30.
The event concluded Sunday evening with a cruise through the area. This YouTube video was taken of the cars streaming in by freelance reporter Edward Lawrence.
KNX1070 reporter Jon Baird reported that traffic near Hercules Street, the site of the crash, was slow and officials warned residents not coming to the memorial to use alternate routes.
At around noon, people tweeted that they saw a small plane fly overhead carrying a banner that read: “God be with Fast and Furious star Paul Walker. Our hearts go out to his friends and family. Paris Hilton.” Hilton, a socialite and TV personality, has not confirmed whether she actually was behind the message.
Walker, 40, was killed when the Porsche Carrera GT he was riding in smashed into a light pole and tree and then burst into flames. The actor’s friend and financial adviser, Roger Rodas, who was driving, also died. Authorities say speed was a factor in the crash.
The two had 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.
On Sunday, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies directed heavy traffic near the crash site. They set up a command post at a nearby high school and encouraged attendees to obey all traffic laws, including not leaving memorial items in the roadway.
Capt. Mike Parker told CBS2 the sheriff’s department relied largely on Facebook to prepare for the crowd. Some full-time deputies worked overtime. Reserve deputies and civilian volunteers were also called in.
Parker also said one man was arrested late Sunday afternoon on a concealed weapon charge.
“If we were not engaged in social media, frankly all these people would have showed up anyway,” Parker said.
“There were no event organizers that communicated with us at all.”
Mourners came from as far as Arizona and Colorado, many of them sharing a love of cars they attributed to the late star.
“He inspired me to fix up my car, do a lot to it…” Lancaster resident Raynale Carter said.
Many of the early arrivals parked in a nearby church lot, where they milled around and bundled up against chilly morning temperatures in the 40s.
Modesto resident Alejandra Ochoa got up at 4:30 Sunday morning to attend.
“We’ve watched his movies. Fourteen years of fast and furious – it means a lot to us,” she said.
Also among those who turned out early was Edi Maya, a gardener who worked in Walker’s neighborhood and said he chatted with the actor from time to time.
Walker was in Santa Clarita for a fundraiser his charity, Reach Out Worldwide, organized for victims of the recent Philippines typhoon. The event took place at Rodas’ shop, and the two stepped away for what was supposed to be a short drive in Rodas’ car.
The limited-edition Porsche was previously owned by IndyCar driver Graham Rahal, who has said it could be difficult to drive.
Walker, the star of five of the six “Fast & Furious” movies, was the face of the franchise. He was making the seventh film in the series when he died.
Universal Pictures has shut down production while it contemplates how it might go forward without him.
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