Anton Yelchin’s untimely death may have been caused by a confusing gear shifter in his Jeep. According to Jalopnik, Yelchin was killed by his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee after the 5,000 pound car rolled backwards down a slight hill on his driveway as he passed behind it, crushing him against a brick mailbox. Unfortunately, Yelchin’s Jeep may have been one of the 1.1 million vehicles recalled in April because, as a recall notice put it, “some drivers… exited their vehicles without first selecting ‘Park,’” ultimately causing the cars to roll away spontaneously, forcefully, and without warning.
While it’s unknown whether this is what happened or Yelchin had his Jeep altered after the recall, the similarities between the car’s issues and what happened to Yelchin are certainly striking. Fiat Chrysler, the company that makes the Jeeps, said that at the time of the recall it knew of 41 injuries related to the shifter, which was designed in such a way that, according to Jalopnik, it “didn’t provide drivers with sufficient feedback for them to know what gear their car was in, and so some drivers just left the vehicles in neutral before exiting the car.” Though Fiat says there are technically no mechanical problems with the cars, drivers who took their vehicles to be serviced after the recall received a software update that “automatically prevent a vehicle from moving, under certain circumstances, even if the driver fails to select Park.” Affected customers also received “tip sheets” reiterating how to properly use the shifter.
In a statement it gave to Gizmodo, Fiat Chrysler says it is “conducting a thorough investigation” into the cause of Yelchin’s death and “is in contact with the authorities.” The company also says, though, that it’s “premature to speculate on the cause of this tragedy.”
Other cars affected by the recall include 2012-2014 Dodge Chargers and 2012-2014 Chrysler 300s, as well as 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees.