Paul Walker was killed in this fire ravaged Porsche Carerra GT sports car.

Paul Walker was killed in this fire ravaged Porsche Carerra GT sports car.

Paul Walker’s horrific death in the crash of a Porsche Carerra GT sports car, captured in photos burning fiercely, raises safety questions about the high-performance car and whether it’s prone to catching fire in front-end collisions.

The Porsche has a unique design. The engine is in the rear and the gas tank is in the front just ahead of the passenger’s compartment.

Editor’s Note: This article was written early on when Walker was thought to be driving his own Porsche 911. Click here for an updated article on the car in question, the Porsche Carrera GT.

The fuel lines run down the middle of the car through the passenger compartment in a tunnel to the engine.The car manufacturer likes to sell the gas tank location as a safety feature.

That’s because it’s in the middle of the car outside what’s known as the front end “crush zone,” the part of the car that’s designed to absorb the energy of a front-end collision by systematically compacting.

Paul Walker's Porsche burns furiously after crashing into a utility pole.

Paul Walker’s Porsche burns furiously after crashing into a utility pole.

But any Porsche aficionado will tell you the tank is located where it is because the car’s design doesn’t leave room for it anywhere else. The problem is the tank is right at the feet of the driver and passenger.

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It’s clear from the ferocity of the fire that the fuel tank was likely ruptured when the car Walker was riding in slammed into a utility pole. Police say Walker was a passenger in the car, driven by long-time friend and business partner Roger Rodas.

This particular model was a Carrera GT, and even more exotic Porsche with a mid-engine configuration that typically sells for more than $333,000.

One thing is certain, once the car caught fire, Walker’s chances of survival were stacked against him.

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Collisions and rollovers were factors in only four percent of highway vehicle fires, but accounted for three of every five, or 60 percent, of automobile fire deaths, according to a study of auto fires between 2006 and 2010 by the National Fire Protection Association.

An estimated 152,300 automobile fires on average were reported during the same period, according to the NFPA. These fires caused an average of 209 deaths, 764 injuries, and $536 million in direct property damage.

This cross-section of an actual Porsche 911 sports car shows the location of the gas tank.

This cross-section of an actual Porsche 911 sports car shows the location of the gas tank.

Because Porsche cars are relatively few in number compared with the total number of cars on the road, the federal government has no statistical data on Porsche crashes involving fires.

A study by a German insurance institute found that the leading causes of car fires in Germany (where Porsches are more prevalent) were the exhaust system (29 percent) engine and/or carburetors (27 percent), heating and ignition systems (26 percent) and wiring and radio equipment (18 percent).

Car crashes were not mentioned, but Porsche 911s had the highest claim rate for car fires per 1,000 claims filed than any other brand of car. And, all models of Porsche had the highest insurance claim rate (3.49 per thousand claims vs. 1.4 claim average) of any car in Germany.

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But it should also be noted that Porsches were subject to the highest rate of fraudulent insurance claims, according to the report.

In 2012, Porsche recalled 1,232 Porsche 911s because of faulty fuel lines. The lines could accidentally disconnect, causing a risk of a crash or fire, according the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Owners of older Porsches are also warned to check fuel lines often and replace them if they appear worn or cracked.

Of course, speed is always a factor. Although Porsche sports cars are designed to withstand collisions better than most cars, no vehicle can survive a high-speed crash without considerable damage.

Jackass’s Ryan Dunn: Here’s How His Porsche Crashed

When “Jackass” movie star Ryan Dunn crashed his Porsche in June 2011 he was traveling at more than 130 mph. The car was shredded when it struck several trees and burst into flames, according to TheImproper.

High speed is also being cited in the crash of Walker’s Porsche. It struck a utility pole head-on and burst into flames, according to police.

Still the question has to be asked, if the gas tank were located somewhere else, could he and the driver have survived?

Be sure to follow TheImproper on Twitter for more updates on Paul Walker’s death.