Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin’s sudden death at the age of 27 due to a freak accident led to speculation about just what caused it — with many theorizing that a design flaw in his Jeep Grand Cherokee was to blame.
The Russian-born actor’s body was found pinned to the gate of his Studio City, California, home by his Grand Cherokee around 1 a.m., with police saying that the car had been left in neutral, causing it to roll down his driveway toward him.
It has been speculated that the reason for the accident was because of a design flaw in the gear stick, which has reportedly caused drivers to forget the car was in neutral instead of park.
Thousands of Grand Cherokees were recalled worldwide due to the gear stick design, which prompted Jeep to enhance its warning signals should the vehicle be left in neutral. They also made it impossible for the car to move in certain cases.
The voluntary recall was initiated in April for models manufactured between July 16, 2012, and December 22, 2015.
“The affected vehicles ... 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 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wrote in a report. “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.”
Several stars mourned Yelchin on social media following his sudden death, including Star Trek director J.J. Abrams.
“You were brilliant. You were kind. You were funny as hell, and supremely talented. And you weren’t here nearly long enough. Missing you. JJ,” Abrams wrote in a handwritten note, The Hollywood Reporter said.
Actress Jodi Foster, who directed Yelchin in 2011’s "The Beaver," paid tribute to him in a statement.
“Anton… What a rare and beautiful soul with his unstoppable passion for life,” Foster’s statement read.
He was equal parts serious thinker and the most fun little brother you could ever dream of. I am so honored to have been able to direct such a deep actor, so committed and genuine. I will forever be grateful for all of those little exchanges we shared, his contagious enthusiasm, his questions, his company. My heart breaks for his mom and dad who were a part of every anecdote. He carried their love into everything he touched.