The Jeep Grand Cherokee that investigators say crushed and killed Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin at his home in Los Angeles Saturday was recalled earlier this year for a dangerous design defect in its electronic gear shift.
The defect, which affects some 2014 and 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees, may cause some drivers to think their vehicle is in park gear when it is not. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
“… the existing strategies built into these vehicles to deter drivers from exiting the vehicle after failing to put the transmission into PARK have not stopped some from doing so. Drivers erroneously concluding that their vehicle’s transmission is in the PARK position may be struck by the vehicle and injured if they attempt to get out of the vehicle while the engine is running and the parking brake is not engaged.
Mr. Yelchin, 27, was crushed to death Saturday night when his Grand Cherokee rolled backward and pinned him the security gate outside his home with enough force to dent the metal gate.
Fiat Chrysler, which manufactures the Jeep brand, voluntarily recalled 811,000 vehicles on April 22. The affected Jeeps were made between July 16, 2012, and December 22, 2015. By the time the affected vehicles were recalled, they were linked to 212 crashes, 41 injuries, and 308 property damage claims.
Should investigators find the Jeep defect to blame in Mr. Yelchin’s death, it would be the first known fatality linked the electronic gear flaw.
Mr. Yelchin, who immigrated to the U.S with his family from the Soviet Union when he was six months old, played Pavel Chekov in the latest Star Trek series of films, in addition to a number of other movie and television roles.