Disturbing new details are emerging in the tragic death of actor Anton Yelchin, who was killed when his Chrysler Jeep Cherokee unexpectedly rolled down his inclined driveway on Sunday, pinning him against a brick pillar.
Yelchin’s 2015 Grand Cherokee SUV is one of the models recently recalled by federal regulators for a gear shift lever that can slip out of gear and was designed to operate in a way that regulators say could be confusing.
Automotive defect attorney Wes Ball of Houston-based Farrar & Ball says Jeep and other automakers need to show more urgency when dangerous defects become apparent.
“What we see over and over again in these situations is that automakers are aware of product defects, but they alert consumers only after injuries mount and regulators finally step in to force a recall,” Mr. Ball says. “Once recalls are issued, these global corporations show a shameful lack of urgency in making sure vehicle owners are aware of the dangers.”
Best known for his role as Chekov in the revamped “Star Trek” sci-fi series, the 27-year-old actor was killed when his SUV rolled backward down his hillside home’s driveway, pinning him against a brick pillar and a metal security gate.
The Jeep model is among 1.1 million cars and SUVs recalled for electronic shift mechanisms that are known to spring back into their prior positions, causing rollaway situations. In addition, the mechanism’s design has been described as “not intuitive” and “increasing the potential for unintended gear selection.” In several documented cases, confused drivers have left their vehicles, mistakenly thinking they had put them in park.
Vehicle owners began receiving recall notices by mail in May 2016.
“While investigators are calling this a `tragic accident,’ it’s clear that Jeep should be doing a much better job warning motorists of the potential problems that could cause their vehicles to roll away like this,” Mr. Ball says.