Seven years ago today, Hollywood actor Paul Walker had enjoyed a fun-filled day with friends at a charity fundraiser in Los Angeles. Little did the Fast and Furious star know that when he agreed to take a spin in friend Roger Rodas' 2005 Porsche Carrera GT, the ride would be his last.
The car ploughed into a concrete lamppost at high speed, tearing the vehicle almost in half and killing both Paul, 40, and Roger in an inferno of mangled wreckage. Helpless witnesses tried to extinguish the molten fireball that enveloped the car, but the flames could not be stopped. Given the horror of the crash, many believed father-of-one Paul must have been killed instantly.
But his autopsy revealed a heartbreaking fact - traces of soot were found in Paul's windpipe, meaning he'd still been breathing as the fire raged. Furthermore, the report detailed how Paul's body was so badly burned that he could only be identified by dental records and his charred organs were too damaged for donation. Meanwhile, Roger's skull was fractured and the top part missing, leaving his brain exposed.
The coroner found no evidence of drink or drug use and recorded a verdict of death by "combined effects of traumatic and thermal injuries." But Paul's daughter Meadow didn't agree and filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Porsche, claiming her father initially survived the crash and could have escaped but was trapped by his seatbelt.
According to the lawsuit, which was obtained by TMZ and vigorously contested by Porsche, Paul was alive for one minute and 20 seconds after impact but couldn't get out because the seatbelt “snapped Walker's torso back with thousands of pounds of force, thereby breaking his ribs and pelvis”.
Lawyers claimed it had taken a whole minute for the fire to break out, giving Paul ample time to make his escape. They also alleged the car lacked sufficient door reinforcements and that manufacturers hadn't used fuel lines that break free to prevent a fire in a crash.
The lawsuit claimed: “Absent these defects in the Porsche Carrera GT, Paul Walker would be alive today."
But Porsche defended itself stating Paul was a "knowledgeable and sophisticated user" of the sports car and argued: "The perils, risk, and danger were open and obvious and known to him, and he chose to conduct himself in a manner so as to expose himself to such perils, dangers, and risks, thus assuming all the risks involved in using the vehicle."
The battle was resolved in 2017 when the wrongful death lawsuit was withdrawn and a settlement reached although the terms have never been disclosed.