Over the weekend, the tragic death of actor Anton Yelchin broke the hearts of fans and friends alike, an event made all the worse by the bizarre nature of the single-car accident that killed him. TMZ, who first broke the news of Yelchin’s passing, billed the event as a “freak accident,” but more details have emerged that paint the event in an even more upsetting and confounding light.
Auto-centric website Jalopnik reports that Yelchin died after his own vehicle, a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee, rolled down his steep driveway and trapped the actor against his own security gate at the bottom of the incline. As the website shares, Yelchin’s car was the same “model that Fiat Chrysler recently recalled after its unconventional gear shifter led to several documented rollaway accidents.”
Per Jalopnik, “Fiat Chrysler said in a recall notice that the shifter confusion had led to 41 injuries,” and though Yelchin’s accident is still under investigation, the site also provides a list of other accidents and near-accidents in which faulty shifters were to blame for Jeeps rolling away. Fiat Chrysler recalled 1.1 million cars in April because of confusion stemming from a ZF eight-speed shifter.
As Jalopnik reported at the time, “Unlike traditional automatic transmission shifters, the ZF shifter in Fiat Chrysler’s vehicles (similar to shifters found in other new vehicles like the BMW 320i), returns to the same position after each driver input. There’s no physical ‘park’ or ‘drive’ gear lever position, only a light that changes from D to P. In addition, there’s a warning chime if the driver-side door is open and the engine is not in the ‘park’ position,” though that didn’t provide “sufficient feedback for drivers to know what gear their cars were in.”
Horrifyingly enough, “The result was people watching their vehicles essentially just drive away…though Fiat Chrysler maintains that nothing was wrong with the cars, saying: ‘the vehicles involved in these events were inspected and no evidence of equipment failure was found.'”
If you haven’t yet, please take a moment to read some of the lovely tributes that have hit the web from some of Yelchin’s closest collaborators and friends, including directors Drake Doremus and Jeremy Saulnier.
Update: Fiat Chrysler Automotive has released a statement to TheWrap. ““FCA US extends its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Mr. Yelchin,” it reads in part. “The company will be conducting a thorough investigation of this tragic incident. It is premature to speculate on its cause at this time.””