On Sunday, word came from the Los Angeles Police Department that a popular, young actor had been killed in a horrific car accident. Twenty-seven-year-old Anton Yelchin, who was best known for playing Chekov in the new Star Trek films, was crushed by his own vehicle at his home.
According to police reports, Yelchin got out of his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The vehicle began rolling down the driveway and trapped the actor against a concrete-enforced mailbox.
The Jeep that killed Yelchin is the same year, make, and model that Fiat Chrysler has recalled because of a dangerous defect with the gear shifter. In April, the automaker announced it was recalling over 1 million vehicles because of a design flaw of the Monostable gear shifter used in the vehicles. Drivers think they have put their vehicle safely into park, but the Jeep is actually in either reverse or neutral, because the defect causes the shifter to go into the default center position instead into park.
The recall was a result of an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). When the recall was announced in April, there had already been 121 accidents and 41 injuries caused by the defective gear shifter.
The vehicles involved in the recall were 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs and 2012-2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans.
Last year, as the U.S. government went after automakers who continue to put profits over vehicle safety, Fiat Chrysler was fined $105 million for failing to issue product recalls and dragging out making repairs to defective car parts.
Both the L.A.P.D. and Fiat Chrysler have yet to officially announce that it was the defective gear shifter that caused the Jeep to roll down the driveway and crush Yelchin to death. However, in a statement the NHTSA said, “This the first fatality we’re aware of that may be related to this safety defect and vehicle recall.”
One can only imagine the excruciating pain Anton Yelchin suffered through in the last moments of his life, as the Jeep’s 5,000 pounds crushed him into that concrete barrier. A horrible tragedy, but also added heartbreak for his parents, who have not only lost a child, but will no doubt agonize the rest of their lives over the gruesome way their son was killed.
Over the past several years, the number of car recalls has been astronomical. In 2014, a record was reached with more than 63 million vehicles recalled because of a defective part or design. These millions of defects have been responsible for killing hundreds of people, and leaving thousands more with often life-long injuries. And the dangers are all around us, with one study finding that there are almost 50 million vehicles on U.S. roads with unrepaired defects.