Who was Roger Rodas?
Many people have asked that question in the aftermath of a fatal collision Saturday that took the life of Rodas and his passenger, actor Paul Walker of the “Fast & Furious” movie franchise.
Rodas was unofficially identified as the driver of the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT that burst into flames when it crashed in the Valencia Industrial Center.
A native of El Salvador, Rodas was born Oct. 31, 1975, , according to his World Challenge profile, so he had just turned 38. He lived in Valencia.
He was a respected wealth adviser who worked for Bank of America/Merrill Lynch for more than 20 years. According to his LinkedIn profile, his latest position was managing director, and Barron’s recognized him as one of “America’s Top 1,000 Advisors” in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
When Rodas was not working in the office, he was racing or spending time with his family. He leaves behind a wife and two children, according to CNN, which reported that his young son was one of the first at the scene.
“I knew his son was heading toward the accident,” car enthusiast Jim Throp told CNN. “And he got past me because he knew there was a fire and he wanted to see it. But he didn’t know it was his dad until he saw the car.”
Rodas and Walker shared similar interests. According to a Merrill Lynch article, Walker attended an auto race in California when he noticed Rodas driving a Porsche GT3 that he had previously owned. They got to talking, and in 2007 Rodas became Walker’s financial adviser. Then they became friends, race partners and business partners, and they supported charities together.
CNN reports that Rodas’ passion for racing led him to become CEO of Always Evolving, a high-end car shop owned by Walker in Valencia, near the crash scene.
Meanwhile, Rodas continued to own a recycling plant in Central America called Cielo Recycling.
Both Rodas and Walker raced for the Always Evolving (AE) team, among others listed on the company’s website.
They raced alongside each other during the 25 Hours of Thunderhill and the Pirelli World Challenge Series, according to USA Today.
Rodas participated in the Pirelli World Challenge Series GTS series earlier this year and placed second in the Pirelli Porsche Drivers Series Championship race in 2012. Overall, he has competed in many amateur races has two first-place wins and six podium finishes, and he was the runner up in the Driver’s Point Championship.
“Paul said that what he saved in expenses covered all of his racing costs last year,” Rodas said in a Merrill Lynch publication.
Rodas and Walker were driven even closer together through charity work.
According to CNN, Rodas operated his own charity in support of widows and orphans in El Salvador. He also supported the Asomugha Foundation, a charity established in 2010 to help disadvantaged American youth and underprivileged children and widows in Africa.
He helped set up the financial structure needed for Walker to establish his own charity, Reach Out WorldWide, which provides on-the-ground disaster relief.
“Becoming a foundation means it can accept donations, which in turn allows Paul to scale up his philanthropy,” Rodas wrote in a Merrill Lynch article.
Rodas and Walker were finishing up a toy drive for ROWW just prior to Saturday’s collision.
Rodas was also the owner of Cielo Recycling, a Central American recycling plant.
– Jeanina Joseph