Fiat Chrysler is investigating the accident that resulted in the death of 27-year-old actor Anton Yelchin after reports surfaced that the vehicle involved was among the models it recalled earlier this year for a confusing electronic shift lever.
The accident occurred early Sunday after Yelchin’s 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which was in neutral, reportedly rolled down the driveway of his San Fernando Valley home, crushing him against a brick mailbox. Friends of Yelchin discovered him hours later, with the vehicle in neutral and its engine still running.
The Jeep was among 1.1 million vehicles recalled by FCA last April after 41 injuries were reported related to rollaways caused by the unusual shift knob. The design, which uses a lever that always returns to a center position, can inadvertently be placed in neutral when drivers believe they’ve placed it in park.
"FCA US extends its most sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Yelchin," a spokesperson said in a statement. "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."
FCA wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the accident. Owners of recalled vehicles that cause injuries can — and often do — sue the manufacturers. When it announced the voluntary recall, FCA said the shift lever’s problems were unusual enough that "unless due care is taken, drivers may draw erroneous conclusions about the status of their vehicles." Now, with Yelchin’s death, that statement has gained a new and tragic significance.