Driver of Jet Truck Killed In Fiery Explosion at Michigan Air Show

Screenshot: YouTube/spencerhughes2255
Jet Truck Explosion Screenshot
Screenshot: YouTube/spencerhughes2255

Driver’s father says blown tire sparked fire in jet truck accident

A summer tradition was shrouded in tragedy after a jet-powered semi truck exploded on an airport runway, killing the driver.

40-year-old Chris Darnell, the pilot of 300+ mile per hour jet truck ‘Shockwave,’ was performing at the annual Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival on Saturday when his truck exploded. Spectator video captured a large ball of fire as two aircraft that were racing the truck flew above.

According to Chris Darnell’s father, Neal, who spoke with the Associated Press, a tire “came apart” and ruptured the fuel tank, which sparked the fire. “It happened so quickly that Chris didn’t even have time to react,” he said.

In a somber Facebook post written the night of the explosion, Neal Darnell said the fire was caused by a mechanical failure and that no one else was involved. “Just one month ago, Chris turned 40,” wrote Neal Darnell. “He was so well loved by everyone who knew him. Chris so loved the Air Show business. He was ‘Living the Dream’ as he said.” He said funeral arrangements were underway. A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist the family.

According to the Shockwave Jet Truck website, the truck was modified with three J34-48 Pratt & Whitney Jet Engines, making it capable of reaching speeds of 350 miles per hour. The truck had been a staple at air shows and festivals around North America and delighted spectators for years. A biography on the website for Chris Darnell says he had been involved in motorsports his entire life. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

1 Comment on Driver of Jet Truck Killed In Fiery Explosion at Michigan Air Show

  1. A couple things need to be address here. As I understand it, the tires were common truck tires, shaved smooth. I’m pretty sure there are NO truck tires that are rated for much more than 100MPH. True, shaving them reduces mass… but I wonder if there is any testing done on these and a few other 200+ mph cars doing this? Second, Looking at the chassis on some of these, I do see where fabrication could be done a bit better for driver protection. Ture that the cage has to be certified in some 1/4 cars, but does that include these exhibition cars? Also wondering what certification is done for chassis safety around the entire driver area?

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