LOS ANGELES (CBSNewYork/AP) — The model of SUV that killed “Star Trek” actor Anton Yelchin was being recalled because the gear shifters have confused drivers, causing the vehicles to roll away unexpectedly.
The car pinned Yelchin, 27, against a brick mailbox pillar and a security fence at his home in Los Angeles, Officer Jenny Hosier said. He had gotten out of the vehicle momentarily, but police did not say why he was behind it when it started rolling.
Web Extra: 5 Facts About Actor Anton Yelchin
Investigators have not established any connection between the transmission in Yelchin’s Jeep and the incident that took his life.
Lt. Larry Dietz told CBS News the Los Angeles County coroner’s office “concluded that Yelchin’s death was an accident” caused by “blunt traumatic asphyxia.” It appeared Yelchin had not properly put his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee in park, Dietz said, adding it was “just one of those freak accidents.”
Fiat Chrysler, which makes Jeeps, said in a statement Monday that it’s investigating and it’s premature to speculate on the cause of the crash. It offered sympathies to Yelchin’s friends and family.
Most 2015 model year Grand Cherokees were part of a global recall of 1.1 million vehicles announced by Fiat Chrysler in April.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urged the recall amid complaints that drivers had trouble telling if they had put the automatic transmissions in park. If they weren’t in park and a driver left the vehicle, it could roll away.
CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave reported last month that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was investigating more than 850,000 vehicles. Most were 2014 and 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees equipped with “e-shift” transmissions. Those transmissions lack the typical grooves and sensation of moving the car into park, drive or reverse.
Government investigators found the transmissions are “not intuitive” and provide “poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection.”
The investigation found reports of 121 crashes and 30 injures linked to the shifter and possible confusion over whether the vehicles had actually been put into park.
In April, Fiat Chrysler recalled more than 800,000 2014 and 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees, Chrysler 300s and Dodge Chargers equipped with Monostable shifter or E-shift transmissions.
Fiat Chrysler spokesperson Eric Mayne told CBS News recall “notices were mailed to affected customers. Included in those notices were tip sheets describing proper operation of the shifter. This supplemental information echoes the instructions in the owner’s manual.”
Yelchin started small with roles in indie films and various television shows, before breaking out in films like the crime thriller “Alpha Dog” and the teenage comedy “Charlie Bartlett.”
His biggest role to date has been in the rebooted “Star Trek” films, in which he took over the role of Chekov, first portrayed by Walter Koenig. The third new film, “Star Trek Beyond” comes out in July.
Celebrities who knew the actor took to social media to express their grief over the loss. Those who had spent time with Yelchin described him as a bright, open, kind and courageous young man.
Yelchin, an only child, was born in Russia. His parents were professional figure skaters who moved the family to the United States when Yelchin was a baby. Yelchin’s family members requested privacy.
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