Yelchin was killed when the SUV rolled away and pinned him
against a fence in Los Angeles, police said on Sunday. Fiat
Chrysler in April recalled more than 1.1 million cars and SUVs
worldwide because vehicles may roll away after drivers exit, an
issue linked to 41 injuries, 212 crashes and 308 reports of
property damage, though it had no immediate fix for owners.
Yelchin died of accidental blunt force asphyxia, Los Angeles
County Coroner Assistant Chief Ed Winter said in a phone
interview Monday. The results of toxicology tests to determine
if Yelchin was under the influence of any substances are not due
back for at least six weeks, he added.
In a May 24 letter to dealers, Fiat Chrysler said it anticipated
having the software updates required to fix the vehicles no
later than July or August. The company previously had told
owners it hoped to come up with a "permanent" remedy by the
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said
late Monday in a statement it is in contact with local
authorities and Fiat Chrysler "to understand all of the facts
related to this tragic crash, including whether or not this was
caused by the current issue under recall."
The recall was done at NHTSA's urging, which again warned owners
that "until all of these recalled vehicles are fixed, owners
should take extra care to make sure their car is in park and
turned completely off before exiting."
Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto
Safety, said Monday that "while waiting for a recall remedy to
be developed, the predictable happened. Anton Yelchin died. How
many more people will be killed or injured waiting for a recall
remedy of this fatal manufacturing flaw?"
Fiat Chrysler spokesman Eric Mayne said the company would
conduct a "thorough investigation" of Yelchin's accident. "It is
premature to speculate on its cause at this time," he added.
Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman Jane Kim said on
Monday that investigators were aware of the recall issue with
the Jeep and were looking at whether that played any role in the
Yelchin, a 27-year-old Russian native, would be the first death
reported to be linked to the defect. In 2014, a U.S. study said
nearly 100 people were killed and 2,000 injured annually from
vehicles that rolled away between 2008 and 2011.
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Fiat Chrysler said in April that the recall was linked to 700
incidents because drivers mistakenly believed they had placed the
vehicles in park before exiting.
Fiat Chrysler said some drivers might have been confused by the
electronic gearshift system, which moves more like a joystick than
along a gate path like conventional gear selectors.
The company said in April that it planned to update the vehicles to
automatically prevent them from moving, under certain circumstances,
even if the driver fails to put the vehicle in park.
NHTSA, which upgraded a probe into the rollaway injuries and
complaints in February, said in April that the shifter was "clearly
a safety issue" leading to hundreds of crashes and dozens of
Fiat Chrysler sent a letter to vehicle owners after announcing the
recall in April, warning them to make sure the vehicles are in park.
NHTSA said in April that testing of the shifter found it was "not
intuitive and provides poor tactile and visual feedback to the
driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection."
Yelchin's death comes a month before the release of "Star Trek
Beyond," in which the late actor played Chekov, the young Russian
navigator of the starship, USS Enterprise.
The cast and creators of "Star Trek Beyond" paid tribute to Yelchin
on Sunday, with producer J.J. Abrams posting on Twitter, "You were
brilliant. You were funny as hell, and supremely talented. And you
weren't here nearly long enough." Yelchin has appeared in numerous
films and was in the TV series "Huff," starring Hank Azaria, who
wrote on Twitter that he was devastated. "He was a very sweet kid.
My heart goes out to his family."
Early in his career as a teenager, Yelchin gained wide attention
appearing with Anthony Hopkins in the 2001 film "Hearts in Atlantis"
and with Robin Williams in 2004's "House of D."
(Additional reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy in Los Angeles Reporting by
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