Los Angeles police are investigating whether the 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee that fatally rolled onto actor Anton Yelchin over the weekend contained a transmission defect that prompted a manufacturer recall.
“We are looking into that,” an LAPD spokesperson told People magazine Monday, referring to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ April recall of the 2014 and 2015 model years. “The investigation is still ongoing and the traffic detectives will look at all of those factors as they would in any traffic collision investigation. So, at this time we’re not sure what caused it, but that’s something investigators are looking at.”
Police said in a statement Sunday that it appeared Yelchin, 27, “had exited his car and was behind it when the vehicle rolled down a steep driveway,” pinning him between the car and a brick mailbox pillar. Friends found him dead at 1 a.m. Sunday, the actor having left his home sometime before 11 p.m. Saturday, according to TMZ.com.
People said Fiat Chrysler Automobiles recalled Jeep Grand Cherokees made between July 16, 2012 and Dec. 22, 2015, after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found a possible defect in the vehicle’s gear-shift design, which made it difficult to tell which gear was engaged. TMZ ran photos of the recalled gear shift and the one found on 2016 models.
According to People, the NHTSA report said that “drivers erroneously concluding that their vehicle’s transmission is in the ‘park’ position may be struck by the vehicle and injured if they attempt to get out of the vehicle while the engine is running and the parking brake is not engaged.”
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles told People in a statement that it is premature “to speculate on the cause of this tragedy” and that the company “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.”
Among the prolific Yelchin’s many roles, he played navigator Pavel Chekov of the USS Enterprise in the 2010s “Star Trek” movie franchise. He will appear posthumously in the third installment, “Star Trek Beyond,” scheduled for release July 22.