LOS ANGELES (AFP) – “Fast and Furious” star Paul Walker died from ‘traumatic and thermal injuries” in a fiery car crash, coroners said Wednesday, fueling suggestions he may have survived the initial impact.
The initial autopsy results came as the makers of the blockbuster franchise announced they were stopping production for now as they discuss how to proceed with the seventh installment, due out next year.
A preliminary report confirmed that Walker, 40, was the passenger in a $400,000 red 2005 Porsche Carrera GT driven by his friend Roger Rodas when it crashed at speed Saturday in Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles.
Rodas died of “multiple traumatic injuries,” according to the autopsy results, while Walker’s cause of death was listed as the “combined effects of traumatic and thermal injuries.”
The blunt description, in a one-page document released by coroners, gave no more details. A spokesman declined to comment on suggestions that it indicated Walker may have survived the initial crash but been killed when flames took hold.
CNN has aired surveillance camera footage of the crash suggesting there was a one-minute gap between the crash itself and fire taking hold of the wrecked vehicle.
Media reports also suggest that many people ran from a nearby charity event the two men had been attending, but arrived too late to do anything for them as the blaze engulfed the car.
The results of toxicology tests are still pending, and could take six to eight weeks, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office said, ruling both deaths as accidental.
The star’s death stunned fans of the high-octane series who have flocked to the spot where he died, contributing to a growing makeshift shrine where co-stars, including Vin Diesel, have come to pay their respects in the days since the crash.
It was a major blow to studio giant Universal Pictures, for whom the franchise is a huge money maker, in an industry increasingly dependent on lucrative blockbuster sequels.
Universal announced the studio has shut down production of “Fast and Furious 7″ following Walker’s death.
“Right now, all of us at Universal are dedicated to providing support to Paul’s immediate family and our extended ‘Fast & Furious’ family of cast, crew and filmmakers,” a statement said.
“At this time, we feel it is our responsibility to shut down production on ‘Fast & Furious 7′ for a period of time so we can assess all options available to move forward with the franchise.”
The filmmakers promised to keep fans informed but in the meantime urged them to “join us in mourning the passing of our dear friend Paul Walker.”
Shortly before the crash, Walker had been at an event to raise money for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines for Reach Out Worldwide, a non-profit disaster relief group the actor founded.
The actor was taking a Thanksgiving break from filming the “Fast and Furious” sequel, which had been scheduled for release in July.
Walker raced cars, described himself on Twitter as an “outdoorsman, ocean addict” and “adrenaline junkie,” and did many of his own movie stunts.
In a departure from his action movie roles, Walker was due to appear in “Hours,” an independent movie set for mid-December release about a father who struggles to keep his ailing infant daughter alive after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005.
The first “Fast and Furious” movie appeared in 2001. The series, with its focus on fast cars, tough guys, sexy starlets and exotic locales, is one of Hollywood’s most successful global franchises.