Did Paul Walker Survive The Crash But Die in the Fire? Why It Matters to Carrera GT Owners
The official cause of the death listed for Paul Walker is that he died from both trauma from the crash AND burn injuries. TMZ states that a video released early on by an on-looker appears to show Walker attempting to escape the crash. While they offer no proof in the article, they do refer to a video that is on Youtube, and state that around the 23 second mark there is a shadowy figure. While some may think this is macabre curiosity, there are serious issues involved if he did die in the flames and not in the crash. The car had magnesium wheels.
If TMZ is right, then it challenges the narrative of other media reports on the topic. The Daily Mail is also running with the story. But it isn’t just challenging the narrative, if he survived the crash and died in the fire, there could be a problem for Porsche. The vehicle had warning, and magnesium wheels, which would explain more about this incident.
Well, good science involves replication. If the video does show Walker surviving the crash but succumbing to the fire, then several independent sources should be able to find it in the video. For the purposes of education and evaluating their claim, 147 Degrees West analyzed the video, and there seems to be some likelihood that TMZ is correct.
Sometimes, a person will see what they want to see. Perhaps we want to believe he tried to escape. Perhaps the shadows are just that, shadows. But there are moments in the video enhancement that are certainly suggestive of the possibility. If this is so, then other owners of this make and model of vehicle should be concerned.
Of course, people who drive $500,000 cars probably don’t read this website, but one never knows.
TMZ also has a memo from Porsche warning about the Carrera GT inability to remain stable on varied road surfaces. According to the memo, the vehicle cannot be driven over a Fosters’ beer can without becoming unstable. The memo also states the wheels are made of magnesium. If that is the case, that would explain the nature of the fire. Magnesium is used in remote regions, like Alaska, to start fires. A small amount of friction against a magnesium surface can create a fire.
Exploring the alloys for car wheels shows that most car manufacturers don’t use magnesium any more. Aluminum, steel, and other alloys are used but apparently magnesium went by the way side for most cars in the 1960s. According to the wiki on automobile wheels, magnesium wheels can contribute to a fire if there is a flat tire.
Magnesium in bulk is hard to ignite but can be ignited by a burning tire or by prolonged scraping of the wheel on the road surface following a puncture. Once lit, it is very hard to extinguish, being able to burn under water or in carbon dioxide, which are common extinguishing materials.
Now, granted this is a wiki, and not a definitive statement on wheel metallurgy. Could a flat tire cause the car to become unstable? Did magnesium wheels contribute to the fire? If the wheels had been aluminum, would the fire have ensued? If he survived the crash, but burned to death, then the wheels on the car causing a fire could have contributed toward his demise.
Consider this scenario for a moment. Suppose a tire blew causing the vehicle to become unstable. Remember the memo from Porsche said it couldn’t be driven over a Foster’s beer can without becoming unstable. Naturally one’s instinct is to hit the brakes. If those magnesium wheels scratched the road surface, that would account for the fire. If he survived the crash, but died in the fire, that would tie his death, in part to the magnesium wheels.
This isn’t the first deadly crash with a Porsche. The Fishwrapper blog notes past accidents with Porsche ranging from James Dean to Lindsay Lohan. However, the accident with Hartwell and Dunn resulted in the bodies being burnt beyond recognition.
Zachary Hartwell, the passenger that Ryan Dunn killed while simultaneously killing himself. Dunn, traveling in a Porsche on a Pennsylvania highway at an estimated 130 miles per hour, lost control of the vehicle and crashed. The car almost immediately burst into flames, and like Paul Walker’s accident, the bodies were burned to the point of having to be identified by the decedents’ dental records.
Shouldn’t the notion of the magnesium wheels causing or contributing to the fire be explored?
On the romantic side of the issue, maybe we simply need to believe he tried to escape. It would fulfill the personae that exemplified his career and his life. You have to watch the video and decide for yourself if what you see is what you see. The bottom line is that it won’t bring him back. However, for some it may be good to know he likely went down fighting. For automotive manufacturers and Porsche owners, it is important to know if they could improve safety by using an alloy less prone to hot fires. Perhaps having wheels made from a likely element of Greek fire is not a good idea after all?
My deepest sympathies to his family. He was a great actor and from all accounts a decent human being. This event is beyond tragic. But if there was any possibility that the stability of the vehicle or the magnesium wheels played a factor, that needs to be brought out to save others from a similar fate.