Anton Yelchin's Death Under Investigation, Possible Vehicle Defect Cited

Anton Yelchin newsletter - H - 2016

The maker of Jeep, Fiat Chrysler, says it is investigating, but noted it is premature to speculate on the fatal accident.

Los Angeles authorities continue to investigate the tragic death of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin

The 27-year-old was killed when he was hit by his own Jeep Grand Cherokee, which rolled down his driveway early Sunday, pinning him between the vehicle, a brick pillar and security fence, police said. 

Authorities are looking into whether a possible defect with Yelchin's Jeep may have caused the accident. The defect surrounds gear shifters that have confused drivers, causing the vehicles to roll away unexpectedly. An LAPD spokesman told The Hollywood Reporter the investigation was ongoing and it was too soon to know why the Jeep rolled, but investigators are aware of reports about a vehicle defect.

Yelchin's body was found at his Studio City home by friends who went to check oh him after he was late for a rehearsal. It is unclear which project Yelchin was working on at the time. 

The maker of Jeep, Fiat Chrysler, sent THR the notice for the voluntarily recall of an estimated 811,586 mid-size SUVs and full-size cars "to reduce the effect of potential driver error by enhancing warnings and transmission shift strategy."

In that notice, dated April 22, the company said it was aware of 41 injuries "potentially related" to vehicles not being properly put into park, so "enhancements" would be added.

"The enhancements will combine warnings with a transmission-shift strategy to automatically prevent a vehicle from moving, under certain circumstances, even if the driver fails to select 'PARK,'" the notice reads. 

On Monday, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it was still trying to determine whether Yelchin's death was related to the gearshift issue that prompted the recall and what the position of his gear shift was at the time of the accident, according to the Associated Press.

An LAPD spokesperson told USA Today that when Yelchin’s friends discovered him pinned between the rear of the car and a mailbox and fence, the Jeep’s engine was still running. The account is consistent with previously reported incidents of Jeep drivers exiting after thinking they they had shifted to park, only to have the car subsequently roll away uncommanded. FCA replaced the shifter involved in the recall with a more traditional design in newer models, Jalopnik reported.

In a separate statement, Fiat Chrysler said: "FCA US extends its most sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Yelchin. The Company is in contact with the authorities and is conducting a thorough investigation. It is premature to speculate on the cause of this tragedy.” 

June 20, 3:35 p.m. PT: Updated with gearshift investigations and new reports