Jeep that killed actor Anton Yelchin was flagged for safety problems
NEW YORK — The Jeep SUV that crushed “Star Trek” actor Anton Yelchin this weekend had been flagged by the automaker for a problem that could cause the vehicle to roll away.
Yelchin’s Jeep rolled down his driveway and pinned him to a brick post in front of his Los Angeles home, according to law enforcement.
Los Angeles police said Monday, “The investigation is ongoing so we have not made any final determination as to the cause of the accident.”
Fiat Chrysler filed a recall notice in April with federal safety regulators for the 2015 Grand Cherokee, the model Yelchin owned, along with 1.1 million cars and SUVs in April. More than 100 crashes have been reported due to a gear selector problem that caused confusion about whether the car was in park.
Car owners haven’t gotten an official recall notice yet, but they did receive a notice warning about the problem in May. It advised drivers to double check that the car is in park, and that the parking brake is on before exiting. Fiat Chrysler has to wait for replacement parts to become available before it can start repairs, according to its filing with safety regulators. At that point it will send a recall notice telling owners to bring the car in for free repairs.
Fiat Chrysler said it it will conduct a thorough investigation of the accident that killed Yelchin, but that it is too soon to say whether the gear problem was cause at the accident.
“FCA extends its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Mr. Yelchin,” said the company.
The cars identified in April have a gear selector that makes it hard to tell what gear the vehicle is in.
Unlike most gear selectors, which are in forward or back positions depending on whether the car is in park, reverse, neutral or drive, these cars’ gear selectors always return to the upright position after a driver changes gear. If a driver gets out of a car when it’s in neutral, the vehicle could roll away.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said there have been 117 crashes allegedly associated with the problem. Of those, 28 reportedly caused injuries, including a fractured pelvis a ruptured bladder and broken ribs. But current filings show no fatalities had been tied to the problem.
To remedy the problem, Chrysler plans to change how the gear works and to enhance the warnings a driver gets if they exit the car when it’s not in park. The changes are designed to automatically prevent the vehicle from moving under certain circumstances, even if the driver doesn’t select “park.”
The vehicles set to be recalled are model-year 2012-2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans, as well as model-year 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs. Later versions of these cars and SUVs have a different type of gear selector that apparently isn’t as confusing. Fiat Chrysler said it changed the design of the gear selector in part because of this problem.
— Peter Valdes-Dapena, Chloe Melas, Steve Visser and Carma Hassan contributed to this report