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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Paul Walker Dead, Was Drag Racing to Blame?; Train Derailment in New York Kills Four; New Information in Paul Walker Car Crash

Aired December 2, 2013 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Michaela Pereira in for Ashleigh Banfield. It is Monday, December 2. Welcome to "LEGAL VIEW".

We do begin with breaking news just in to CNN. Police in Toledo, Ohio say they now have a suspect in custody who may have carried a weapon into Scott High School. The suspect is believed to be a student. There are no reports of injuries. Again, the suspect is in custody after quite a scare at that high school there in Toledo. We'll bring you more information when we get it.

The investigation into the death of actor Paul Walker taking another tragic turn this hour: Los Angeles County deputies are looking at drag racing as a possible cause for the fiery crash that killed the "Fast & Furious" star this Saturday just outside of Hollywood. Is this a case of life imitating art for the actor known for his speed and recklessness on the screen?

CNN entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner looks at the investigation and how fans, family and friends are coping with the untimely loss.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: "Fast & Furious" co-star Tyrese Gibson overcome with grief Sunday.

The Santa Clarita crash site where 40-year-old Paul Walker died now a shrine to one of Hollywood's most bankable box office stars.

Police now say Walker was in the passenger seats of this 2005 Porsche Carrera GT, this photo snapped just 30 minutes before the car slammed into a pole and burst into flames.

The mangled wreckage apparently captured on this YouTube video. Police say speed may have been a factor.

CNN affiliate KCAL TV has identified the driver as Roger Rodas, a business partner who ran a high-performance auto shop nearby.

Both men were driver's on the shop's race team. The pair just left a charity event for Walker's organization, Reach Out Worldwide.

An eerie end for an actor whose career was launched by the high-octane movie franchise about elicit street racing. Walker's love of speed, both on and off the set, was well-known. He spoke to CNN in 2001 about making the "Fast & Furious" and life imitating life.

PAUL WALKER, ACTOR: I bought a Nissan Skyline V Spec. I had it actually imported from Japan, so the steering wheel is on the right- hand side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you a lead foot?

WALKER: Yeah. I race it actually.

TRUNER: Production is now at a standstill on the seventh film, set to wrap this month in Atlanta.

Walker's new film, "Hours," about a father struggling through Hurricane Katrina, is due out this month.

He leaves behind his 15-year-old daughter Meadow and will be remembered for the passion he brought to everything he did.

WALKER: It's just amazing, the things that I've seen, the things that I've done, the people that I've met in that short of period of time. It's just -- you know, I don't ever want it to end.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PEREIRA: Nischelle Turner joins us now here in studio.

And it's interesting that this latest breaking development -- I think there were people that might have had sneaking suspicions. We know that street racing is an issue in parts of Southern California.

How do they know that the Porsche could have been involved in that?

TURNER: Well, it's interesting, because you said there may have been some suspicions, and our Alan Duke from CNN Digital actually was on the scene this weekend.

He had taken photos about 150 yards away from the crash scene. There were a lot of tire tracks, doughnut tracks, skid marks. And we had asked, are -- could this be part of the crash?

At that time, the authorities said, We're not sure. We don't know if these have anything to do, which they're still saying they're not sure if those skid marks have anything to do.

But they are now saying that they're looking into drag racing as a possibility that there may have been another car involved in the crash.

They're also saying that they're looking into the possibility that another car veered in front of the Porsche Carrera GT that Walker's friend was driving and caused the crash.

There are a lot of things that they're looking at, and it's because they got this phone tip over the weekend from someone who said that the Porsche could have been involved in drag racing.

That area in Valencia, in Santa Clarita is known for it. There was a crackdown about two years ago by the sheriff's department in that area on fast racing and drag racing, so --

PEREIRA: And they've done a huge push to try and crack down on that.

TURNER: Right.

PEREIRA: We're going to talk about the investigation in a moment, in a second.

But I also want to talk about the fact that he was a bona fide movie star. We talked about this before, doing a lot of good works, onscreen, and a lot of good works off screen.

But he was also a father. He had a 15-year-old daughter.

TURNER: Fifteen-year-old daughter who according to E! News and reports this morning was with him at the charity event on Saturday.

She did not see the crash, but apparently she heard the explosion of the car crash. But, yes, he was a father of a 15-year-old, a Southern California boy, born and bred.

His family still lived in that area.

PEREIRA: From Glendale.

TURNER: Exactly, so he was there, visiting his friends and family for holiday before he headed back to Atlanta to finish shooting "Fast & the Furious 7."

PEREIRA: That brings me to my next question. What are they going to do about that? Because that film is partially in the can at this point.

TURNER: Yeah. We've been trying to get information on that. We just heard back from Universal Pictures, this is the studio behind the film, this morning, who says they're now trying to decide if they will delay the release of the film.

It's slated for release July 11th, which is right in the heart of summer blockbuster season. Last summer, "Fast & Furious 6," it was one of -- it was a hit. They knew it was going to be a hit, but it was one of the surprise hits of the summer.

Worldwide, this film made $788 million, so there's a lot of money at stake in this franchise. But they have to make the decision whether or not to release a film where their star actor is doing high-octane stunts, drag racing in the film, and he was just killed in a car crash months before.

That's a big decision. By the way, I just want to say, we were talking about the investigation, I did just want to mention, because I got off the phone with CNN's Alan Duke just a moment ago, and he was there this weekend. So I wanted to ask him about the conditions of the streets. It was raining and inclement weather in Los Angeles on Friday. I asked him what it was like there on Saturday.

He said it was a beautiful day. The streets were dry. There was no sign of any rain. And that kind of lends to, could there have been skidding? Could they have slipped? Could there have been hydroplaning?

According to Alan, it was a beautiful day. It was nice out there. There were no signs that any of that could have been -- weather could have been a factor.

PEREIRA: Now, I also know you played a little video for us, or some sound, earlier on "NEW DAY." He's been interviewed a fair amount and he was fairly reflective about his life.

In fact, could you play us some of that sound that you have? It was very moving.

TURNER: Yeah, absolutely, because there was. He has this new film that's coming out on December 13th called "The Hours." It's an independent film about a father who is struggling after the -- with his child's health complications right after Hurricane Katrina.

And during this junket for the film where people went and interviewed him, he talked about kind of what life meant and the deeper meaning.

Let's listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALKER: We're trying to control awful this stuff. And you realize is, in the process, that it's not about all this. It's just about what's in this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.

WALKER: The machine is life, just endlessly cranking. And we're running around and we're trying to juggle all of these balls and we're running all over the place.

And when they all hit the floor, we panic. There's really no need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREIRA: Takes on new meaning.

TURNER: Yeah.

PEREIRA: Doesn't it?

TURNER: It does. It definitely does.

PEREIRA: Nischelle, thank you for bringing this to us, and keep working the phones to get information as you can.

TURNER: Sure.

PEREIRA: But we want to bring in a retired law enforcement agent with Nassau County police department, Lou Palumbo. Really great to have you here. Maybe you can give us some ideas.

Now that we've heard the fact that street rating may be involved in this accident, give us an idea of how they investigate that.

Nischelle told us about some of the details that are slowly emerging. How do you investigate whether street racing would have been a factor in this?

LOU PALUMBO, RETIRED LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENT: There's a general application of what we would call accident recreation or accident investigation.

It's multifaceted. It includes determining the speeds these vehicles were traveling; direction; weather conditions, which we spoke to briefly, which, actually, after listening to the fact that it rained the night before, may have lent itself to a lack of stability in the roadway; witnesses; whether or not vehicles had been tampered with, because they do not eliminate the possibility that this was a crime.

TURNER: And one of the things in this case, too, this car was a specialty-made car, this Porsche Carrera GT.

It was built about eight years ago, but it has only been driven about 200 miles a year. There was only 3200 miles on the odometer of this car at the time of the crash.

So it wasn't a car that was made to be driven every day. It was a performance-type car. And the man driving was a performance experienced driver.

PEREIRA: Both of them were.

PALUMBO: They'll -- there's a problem lent to this, because, unfortunately, our entertainment industry oftentimes trains people to engage in roles in their movies, and I'm certain that this individual received some training.

I did want to comment just very briefly on the other tire tracks that were there. What they will do is they will go back and they will literally idea the composition of those tire tracks, the skids that you saw, and they'll be able to determine unequivocally if they were actually matching the tires involved in the accident, as well as the speed.

One thing that people are unaware of is that when you have an automobile accident at 30-miles-an-hour, you have substantial damage to your vehicle. When you start to hit that threshold of approximately 40, 45, your vehicle starts to disintegrate. You can tell by looking at this vehicle, they were at an excessive rate of speed.

PEREIRA: I wanted to ask you about that, and this is a grisly part of the discussion. There's not anything left of that vehicle. It's just mangled metal and ash.

That's not going to help them a whole lot. They're really going to have to look at the tire tracks, are they not?

PALUMBO: They'll look at the condition of the vehicle. They're going to determine if there was a roll cage in it, for example. A lot of these vehicles are constructed with them, steel cages. They'll look at the vehicle's tire tracks, if there was skid marks.

They're going to do a complete, thorough recreation of this accident to determine as best as they possibly can what exactly transpired or lent itself to this.

PEREIRA: And there were likely eyewitnesses. It was the late -- middle of the afternoon. It wasn't at night. It wasn't on an abandoned stretch of road. This was a busy part there of Valencia.

Lou Palumbo, thank you so much for your expertise. Nischelle Turner -

TURNER: Absolutely.

PEREIRA: -- excellent reporting, thank you so much for that.

I want to point out to you that, coming up later this hour, a man who witnessed this crash, an eyewitness to this crash, will join us live right here.

A deadly train accident has investigators wondering if speed was a factor or if the brakes failed. That's still ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: It has been a complicated commute for New Yorkers who typically ride southbound trains into the Bronx and Manhattan.

A section of tracks where a Metro north train jump the rails yesterday is closed. Cars are being put upright, and investigators are frantically trying to figure out what happened.

This much we know. Four people were killed, at least 67 others hurt. Potentially faulty brakes are one key focus of the probe.

We get the latest from CNN's Alexandra Field.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Overnight, the names of all four passengers killed by the Metro north commuter train crash Sunday were released.

MTA police identified 54-year-old Donna Smith.

KATHY CERONE, NEIGHBOR OF DERAILMENT VICTIM: Donna was a wonderful person. She was a kind, neighborly, friendly person.

FIELD: Thirty-five-year-old Ahn Kisook, 59-year-old James Ferrari, and this man, 58-year-old father of four, James Lovell.

JONATHAN KRUK, NEIGHBOR OF DERAILMENT VICTIM: I remember him as having dignity and determination and being a wonderful father.

FIELD: Three of them, ejected from the train, its cars strewn along the tracks in the Bronx.

RYAN KELLY, INJURED PASSENGER: I got thrown across, back and forth, and it came to like a halt. And there was just people screaming.

FIELD: Early Sunday, a throng of rescue workers scoured the grisly scene, one rail car nearly plunging into the river where divers checked for bodies under the water.

ARBEE GUIVESUS, INJURED PASSENGER: I could see some people like flying from my left side to the right side, people from the back. It's just crazy.

FIELD: At 7:20 a.m., the commuter train carrying 150 passengers on its way to Grand Central Station from Poughkeepsie approached an extremely sharp curve that required a speed limit of 30-miles-per-hour along the Harlem River, compared to the straightaway prior requiring a speed limit of 70-miles-per-hour.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK: The curve has been here for many, many years. And trains take the curve. But it can't just be the curve.

FIELD: The train conductor said he tried to apply the brakes but said they didn't work, as all seven cars derailed, barreling off the tracks.

AMANDA SWANSON, PASSENGER ON DERAILED TRAIN: By the time I looked up, it was completely going off its track and there was rubble from under the tracks like flying at my face.

FIELD: Only 1700 feet away from a previous July derailment. That's where ten garbage freight cars flipped on their sides.

EARL WEENER, NATL. TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: We don't know what the train speed was. We will learn that from the vehicle event recorders.

FIELD: This is the second passenger train derailment in six months for Metro North. In May, an eastbound train derailed in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and was hit by a westbound train; 76 people were injured.

Sunday's crash eerily similar to the one that derailed in northwestern Spain killing 79 passengers. In that crash, the train was approaching a sharp turn. Security video shows the shocking moment the train going more than twice the speed limit hurdled off the tracks. Officials are looking into what role, if any, speed played in the Bronx accident.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PEREIRA: Alexandra joins me now. It's interesting to see that video, so reminiscent of what happened in Spain. We all remember that. Alexandra, given the state of things today, have they been able to upright all of the cars?

FIELD: It's a long process. Right now we can see two of the passenger cars remaining where they landed just feet away from the Harlem River. The reconstruction started hours ago. It was before daylight when the brought in two cranes. They started by lifting the locomotive onto the track and from there they have gone and lifted each of the following passenger cars up onto the track. As they do that, we are also seeing the police do a final search with cadaver dogs around the perimeter of the train. Although, we're told that authorities do believe that all of the passengers have been accounted for.

PEREIRA: Slow, arduous work, and then of course the investigation. How long do they think in total that the tracks are going to be closed? Any estimate?

FIELD: : It's pretty fluid right now, Michaela, they're going to allow them to spend as much time as they need to out here. Then the train will be removed. And after that the track will be inspected and repaired before the service can return to normal. So, while this is a heavily used commuter track, commuters are making other plans right now. There is a bus service that's being provided in the meantime.

PEREIRA: They're always really great about getting people to their destination, whether it's a bus service or otherwise. We know we just got an update. I was looking at the wreckage. It's remarkable that there weren't more fatalities. Three families have lost loved ones. Any more updates on those injured?

FIELD: Five different hospitals received patients yesterday who were onboard this train. Yesterday we were told that 67 people had been hurt and that 11 were in critical condition. This morning four hospitals are providing information and we know that at least three people are still critical. Again, that's with four out of five hospitals giving us their latest numbers, Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right, Alexandra. We appreciate -- correct me, it was four killed not three killed. Thank you for that update for us.

We're going to take a short break here on LEGAL VIEW.

California investigators looking into the possible drag racing tie that led to the death of actor Paul Walker. When we come back, we'll speak to one man who saw, who witnessed that deadly crash.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: I want to take you back to our top story, the investigation into the death of actor Paul Walker, the "Fast & Furious" star was killed in a fiery crash in Santa Clarita, California on Saturday. An investigator tells CNN another car may have been involved, and drag racing may have played a role. Joining us now on the phone is Jim Torp. He witnessed Saturday's deadly crash. He joins us on the phone from Burbank, California. Jim, are you able to hear us?

JIM TORP, WITNESSED PAUL WALKER CRASH (via telephone): Yes, I can hear you fine. PEREIRA: I want you to tell me how you came to be at the site of the crash. We were attending the fundraising event, were you not?

TORP: Yes, that's correct.

PEREIRA: And describe what you saw. What happened?

TORP: The event was for Walker's organization. It was a Toys for Tots drive that he this annually. And as the event was winding down, Roger, Paul's partner and Paul were parking their cars back into the warehouse. Roger got into one of the Porsches, and one of his employees were there trying to park. It was cold and it w was stalling on them. So Roger got into the car. And he was going to take it for a drive. Paul walker decided to go with him.

They drove by us, Paul says, I'll be back in five minutes, guys. Because we were doing stuff. Five minutes turned into 20 minutes. They went driving past us. And I was comparing the exhaust system to the exhaust system on my friend's Ferrari that was standing there.

And the next thing you know, we hear a big, big crash. And I looked at my friend Mitch, and I said I think they just got in a car accident. And he goes, no way. I saw smoke, and I called my son. I said Brandon get over there. He said what's going on? I said, I think they were just in an accident. Grab the fire extinguisher.

He took off running. He got up to the scene, saw the car smoking. It was on fire. It wasn't a big fire yet. He was trying to put it out. He can see Paul and Roger were both in the car when the car decided to blow up. I did everything I could to keep everything calm and cool where the event was. By the time I got up there, the car as engulfed in flames. The fire department was putting the flames out. And you know, it -- the speculations from everybody on Twitter and everybody else, they were not drag racing. They had --

PEREIRA: Why do you say that?

TORP: They brought two Porsches and they were taking them for a drive before they parked them into the warehouse. There were no other cars with them, because you could see them. When they drove by, there were no other cars by them, within split seconds of the car hitting the four trees and a lamp post. They weren't drag racing anybody.

PEREIRA: What do you make of the sheriff's department saying that they received a tip that drag racing was involved?

TORP: Well, you know I like to see the tip. We were there and there was no drag racing involved with this.

PEREIRA: There was also a report that there was another vehicle perhaps in the area. You did not see another vehicle?

TORP: There was another vehicle. There was an elderly woman (sic) and his wife -- I mean her husband. They thought maybe a movie was being made because of the smoke and everything else. Right behind where it happened was a special effects place for the studios where they blow things up. That's what a lot of people thought what the smoke was. I knew the smoke wasn't coming from the special effects. I know it was a car accident that Paul and Roger were in.

PEREIRA: It's a heart breaking thing when anybody is hurt in an accident or killed. I understand that Roger Rodas, who was driving the vehicle, who was Paul Walker's business associate and friend, I understand his son was in the area, his 8-year-old son. Can you tell us what happened?

TORP: Yes. His 8-year-old son heard, you know, that there was an accident. He was running with everybody else. I went to go get him. That's one of the reasons why I didn't take off right away. I didn't want his son to see this.

That little guy was fast. I couldn't catch him. But before he could actually see the car burning, somebody else had got him. I know he saw it. And he wasn't too sure what was going on, but he kept screaming, my dad, my dad is in that car.

So they brought the son back to his father's warehouse. And at that point, I never got a chance to talk to his son. I was in a golf cart with his son just about a half hour before all of this happened. So, I mean, five minutes was actually 20 minutes. And we don't know at this point if Roger was the one driving. Because Roger could have swapped seats with Paul. We don't know if Roger was driving or Paul was driving because they were gone for a short while.

PEREIRA: There's so many things that investigators have to look into. I'm going to ask you to stick around with us.

We're going to take a short break but I want to come back and talk to you more about Paul Walker and the event that he was at and his demeanor, and ask you to stay on the line. LEGAL VIEW is going to take a break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)