Paul Walker, star of Universal Pictures' The Fast and the Furious movie franchise and former cast member of The Young and the Restless, died Saturday following a fiery, single-car accident in Valencia, California. Walker was 40.
"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," a statement on Walker's official Facebook page revealed. "He was a passenger in a friend's car, in which both lost their lives. We appreciate your patience as we too are stunned and saddened beyond belief by this news. Thank you for keeping his family and friends in your prayers during this very difficult time. We will do our best to keep you apprised on where to send condolences."
Published reports say that the accident that took Walker's life occurred while the actor was riding in friend Roger Rodas' 2005 Porsche Carrera GT just a few hundred yards from the event location. Authorities responded to the crash at about 3:30pm PT in the 28300 block of Rye Canyon Loop and found the car engulfed in flames. The two victims were pronounced dead at the scene.
Though Walker will forever be remembered to moviegoers as The Fast and the Furious' Brian O'Conner, one of Walker's first big breaks was a 1992 role as Brandon Collins on The Young and the Restless. Brandon worked in the mailroom at Newman Enterprises and had a crush on Victoria Newman. Though Walker exited Y&R in 1993, he earned praise for his work. The actor received a 1994 Soap Opera Digest Awards nomination as Outstanding Male Newcomer. He was also nominated as Best Young Actor in a Soap Opera at the 1992 and 1993 Young Artists Awards.
"Everyone at #YR & @CBSDaytime is deeply saddened to hear about the death of Paul Walker. We send our heartfelt condolences to his family," The Young and the Restless posted on its official Twitter page.
"I am beyond saddened to hear of the tragic passing of my former @YRInsider castmate, Paul Walker. My heart goes to his family and daughter," added Tracy Bregman (Lauren Fenmore).
"He was just so unpretentious," Eric Braeden (Victor Newman) shared in an interview on KCAL. "An easy-going, Southern California guy. I've worked with quite a few young people over the years. But I had a feeling, that he would make it on the big screen. He had a basic decency and honor"
Walker went on to earn leading man status in 1998's Pleasantville and Varsity Blues, which was released the following year.
Walker also starred in the film Hours, a thriller in which a father struggles to keep his infant daughter alive in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The movie was slated for release on December 13. It is unclear if that release will be postponed in the wake of Walker's death.
Though action films don't typically garner critical acclaim, Walker's work in The Fast and the Furious instantly made him popular with fans. The Hollywood Film Festival awarded him the Hollywood Breakthrough Award in 2001 for his role in The Fast and the Furious. Walker and co-star Vin Diesel picked up a 2002 MTV Movie Award for Best On-Screen Team. Proving that his on-screen chemistry had no limits, the Teen Choice Awards awarded the Movie Chemistry award to Walker and... his car from the movie 2 Fast 2 Furious.
In 2001, People magazine chose Walker as one of the 50 Most Beautiful Persons in the world.
The Fast and Furious franchise is the highest-grossing active picture franchise for Universal. Walker appeared in five of the six movies in the series, and those films have grossed nearly $1 billion at the U.S. box office alone. Walker was in production on the seventh installment of the series.