8

Heavy.com report that the car crash that killed actor Paul Walker was at about 40-45 miles per hour (64-72 km/h). They cite an NBCNews tweet:

Update: Paul Walker was not drag racing at time of crash, sources say; car was going 40 – 45 m.p.h. around bend with 15 m.p.h. speed limit

However, images of the car being reported in the press looks like it was flying along before it met the tree.

Car after accident

Image Source: The Hindi

Did the crash happen at such low speeds?

  • the only acceptable answer we'll get is from the police report that won't come out for a week at least – ratchet freak Dec 7 '13 at 2:04
  • According to our Privileges section, you should only use comments to request clarification from the author or leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving this post. Please review the When shouldn't I comment? section and act appropriately in the future. – Sklivvz Dec 14 '13 at 12:59
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    Note: the car looking mangled shouldn't be taken as a sign of the speed prior to crash. Modern cars (especially race cars) are designed to crumble into a thousand pieces during a crash. Doing so absorbs kinetic energy that would otherwise transfer directly to the human bodies inside. – WakeDemons3 Jan 30 at 22:37
6

The coroner's report stated that the impact occurred at over 100 miles per hour. (LA Times)

"Fast and Furious" actor Paul Walker and his friend were traveling at more than 100 mph when the Porsche they were in crashed, killing them both, according to a coroner's report released Friday that offers the first detailed account of the Santa Clarita wreck since it occurred Nov. 30.

The L.A. County Sheriff's Investigation concluded the car was travelling up to 93 mph (LA Times):

The high-performance Porsche that "Fast & Furious" actor Paul Walker was riding in was traveling up to 93 mph when it crashed and burst into flames, killing him and the driver, an L.A. County Sheriff's investigation found.

This was based on "surveillance videos and electronic data retrieved from the car’s computers".


These reports came out much later than the report you base this question on, but there were earlier signs that the initial reporting should have not been taken as a reliable source.

There are a few heuristics that are useful when judging the accuracy of hot news items.

Specifically, see items 1, 2, and 3 from On the Media's "Breaking News Consumer Handbook":

  1. In the immediate aftermath, news outlets will get it wrong.

  2. Don't trust anonymous sources.

  3. Don't trust stories that cite another news outlet as the source of the information.

The source you linked to says, "NBC is quoting unnamed police sources", which implicates the second and third of those heuristics. The first suggests that we look for more recent reporting.

This story from People, which is a more recent source, says:

Los Angeles County Sheriff's detective Jeff Maag tells PEOPLE the driver "was doing well over 45 — [it's] fair to say at least twice that."

And also that even this estimate is uncertain:

Maag says it will take days or even weeks to complete the investigation and conclude exactly how fast the car was going [...]

  • Another heuristic is that your ABC article is two days later (and therefore, I would hope, two days wiser) than the NBC reference in the OP. – ChrisW Dec 6 '13 at 21:03
  • @ChrisW Definitely :) I think that's item 1 in their list. – user5582 Dec 6 '13 at 21:04
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    Regardless of the accuracy of the reporting, this does not answer the question. – Flimzy Dec 6 '13 at 22:30
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    @Articuno: Police tend to make statements right after the events, which is pretty similar to your heuristic #1. I don't know if that specific quote was the night of the accident or more recently, but a single quote from a single detective doesn't seem like enough. If it was in the opinion of NBC News, they wouldn't have tweeted a contradicting "update." In short: Your one source may be accurate, but your answer doesn't prove it to the satisfaction of this skeptic. – Flimzy Dec 6 '13 at 22:34
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    @Articuno - which makes it a speculation not an answer. – Chad Dec 8 '13 at 2:15

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