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Jeep That Killed Anton Yelchin Had Been Recalled for ‘Rollaway Risk’

The vehicle that fatally pinned Anton Yelchin on Sunday outside his Studio City home had recently been recalled due to “rollaway risk.”

Yelchin drove a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Select 2014 and 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees — manufactured between July 16, 2012, and Dec. 22, 2015 — were recalled in April by manufacturer Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for a transmission issue that made it possible for the vehicle to roll away after being parked. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study investigated 14 complaints of “rollaway” after shifts to the “park” gear.

“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,” the NHTSA concluded.

Yelchin’s body was found pinned by his car against a brick mailbox pillar and a security fence after the Jeep rolled in reverse down the steep driveway.

An LAPD spokesperson told Variety that the death is being investigated as a traffic collision so the car will be inspected for possible mechanical faults, as is standard practice.

FCA officials, however, say it’s too early “to speculate on the cause of this tragedy.”

“FCA US extends its most sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Yelchin,” the FCA said in a statement on Monday. “The company is in contact with the authorities and is conducting a thorough investigation.”

FCA US had identified — as of April 12 — 212 crashes, 308 claims of property damage and 41 injuries potentially related to the design flaw that allowed electronic shifts to spring back to their prior position after being moved to a different gear.

However, “the vehicles involved in these events were inspected and no evidence of equipment failure was found,” the FCA said.

The automotive manufacturer voluntarily recalled an estimated 1.1 million cars in the U.S. in April, according to the Los Angeles Times, “to reduce the effect of potential driver error by enhancing warnings and transmission shift strategy.”

Lt. Larry Dietz of the L.A. County coroner’s office told CBS News that Yelchin’s death was caused by “blunt traumatic asphyxia.” He said it appeared as though Yelchin hadn’t properly put his car in park.

Yelchin’s parents could sue Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for wrongful death, says Brian Panish, a partner at Panish, Shea & Boyle, who has handled product liability cases involving automakers.

“It’s a substantial, multi-million dollar case,” Panish said. “No doubt.”
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has also received numerous complaints about rollaways when the drivers thought their vehicle was in park, sometimes resulting in injuries to the drivers.
“While parked in a parking lot, the contact’s vehicle rolled away and another vehicle crashed into the rear of the contact’s vehicle,” one of the complaints reads.
“I was backing a boat into the lake using this vehicle. I put the vehicle into park, or thought I did, and opened the driver door. As I exited the vehicle rolled backwards, knocked me down, and the entire vehicle, with boat and trailer, went into the lake,” another complaint says.
Gene Maddaus contributed to this report. 

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