Actor Anton Yelchin, best known for his roles on Star Trek and Terminator Salvation, was killed in a freak accident early yesterday morning after his own Jeep Grand Cherokee crushed him against a mailbox. The horrific accident, made more tragic by the fact that Yelchin was only 27 years old and that it occurred on Father's Day, has one big question surrounding it: was Yelchin's death as a result of a confusing Grand Cherokee shifter, one of the 1.1 million recalled this April?
Yelchin was set to meet friends for a rehearsal late on Saturday, but never turned up. After showing up at his home in the wee hours of Sunday morning, his friends found the young man's body pinned between his Jeep and a brick mailbox pillar. The Jeep was in neutral, according to TMZ, and police officials stated the engine was still running at that time. Subsequent reports indicate that Yelchin's body was crushed with such force, the impact bent a metal gate beside the pillar.
Yelchin's 2015 Grand Cherokee would qualify as one of the "runaway" Jeeps that Fiat-Chrysler recalled a few months ago, which may bring some clarity as to how the tragedy occurred. According to the automaker, the vehicles equipped with the ZF's eight-speed automatic transmission were problematic because that unorthodox shifter stalk required a driver to hold the button while pushing the shifter completely forward in order to find park. Due to the confusing shifter and a lack of alerts signifying the vehicle was, in fact, in "park," drivers reported exiting the vehicle only to find the car was still in neutral and rolling away.
FCA recalled 2012-2014 Dodge Chargers, 2012-2014 Chrysler 300s and 2014-2015 Grand Cherokees. As many as 121 crashes were reported as the result. While it's not possible to ascribe fault to the car at this point, it is plausible that the issue did contribute to the actor's death. We'll update as the investigation continues.