As fans and friends express shock and disbelief at the freakish car accident that killed Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin, many questions are now being asked. Is it possible that perhaps his Jeep Grand Cherokee, a vehicle that was recently recalled due to rollaway accidents, has a design flaw that led to the Russian-born actor’s untimely death?
Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin was found dead at his San Fernando Valley home late Saturday evening. His Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled backwards and down his hilly driveway, fatally pinned the actor to his brick mailbox, killing the 27-year-old. The vehicle was left in neutral, and the engine was still on.
The reason many are questioning the recalled vehicle is that this is not the first time a Jeep Grand Cherokee rollaway accident has occurred. This is possibly what occurred to Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin.
The NHTSA reported that 212 crashes, 308 property damage claims, and 41 injuries were attributed to the Jeep Grand Cherokee, all stemming from the confusing ZF shifter. According to Gizmodo, Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles were voluntarily recalled earlier this year for a risk of rollaway when drivers believed they had shifted their car into park. Then, when drivers exited their vehicles, to their horror, they saw their 2.5-ton vehicle began to move on its own.
The error is because of a design flaw with the ZF eight-speed-automatic shifter that only signals that the vehicle is locked into park with only a light to indicate the change, yet no click sound as in other vehicles. It appears that the German-made ZF shifter, which is similar to the one also used in the BMW525, returns to the same position without a real physical feel of the gear moving from drive to park. Instead, the light will go from D to P, indicating that the vehicle is positioned in park.
After testing out the ZF shifter, the NHTSA determined that the shifter was “not intuitive” and offers “poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection.”
The NHTSA statement regarding the need for the recall clearly states that the fault is “[t]he affected vehicles, equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission and a monostable gear selector, may not adequately warn the driver when driver’s door is opened and the vehicle is not in PARK, allowing them to exit the vehicle while the vehicle is still in gear.”
The cause of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin’s death could very well have been what was described in the NHTSA warning: Drivers may think that the vehicle is positioned in park, but instead, it is still in drive.
“Drivers thinking 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.”
According to Jalopnik, in April, Fiat Chrysler ran a voluntary recall on all Jeep Grand Cherokees manufactured between July 16, 2012, and December 22, 2015.
A total of 1.1 million cars were recalled by Fiat Chrysler in April, with over 811,000 in the United States alone.
There is no word on if Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin’s vehicle was on this list of recalled cars. At this time, there has been no word from the family, although a publicist issued a statement when confirming Yelchin’s death.
“Anton Yelchin was killed in a fatal traffic collision early this morning. His family requests you respect their privacy at this time.”
Do you think that the ZF shifter is the cause of Anton Yelchin’s death? Do you think that the latest Star Trek movie should have a special dedication to the actor in the upcoming release of Star Trek Beyond?
[Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival]