Who is Chris Darnell? Racer dies at Michigan air show after jet-fueled truck horrifically EXPLODES
A 40-year-old man was killed at a Michigan air show when his jet-fueled semi-truck exploded during a pyrotechnic accident on Saturday, July 2. The driver, Chris Darnell, was reportedly racing two planes at around 1:10 pm during the Field of Flight Air Show at Battle Creek Field. He hit speeds of up to 300 miles an hour.
However, when Darnell released the parachute from his 'Shockwave Jet Truck', it horrifically burst into flames. He was passing the area where the pyrotechnic display was set off at the time of the accident. Spectators were heard yelling "no!" as they watched the tragedy unfold at the Fourth of July weekend extravaganza.
After the blast, a local pastor got on the intercom and led the horrified crowd in a prayer for Darnell. "He was doing his show and going down the runway,” said Suze Gusching, media relations for Field of Flight. “He passed by the explosion, and his truck had exploded.” The incident is now being investigated by the Battle Creek Fire Department, Battle Creek Police Department, and Federal Aviation Administration.
The air show was ultimately canceled after being postponed for hours, according to WXMI. The evening activities at the Michigan festival scheduled to take place on Sunday, July 3, will go ahead as planned. The Shockwave Jet Truck in question is part of the Darnell Racing Enterprise’s show team. It is outfitted with three jet engines of a type used in Navy planes. The team's three trucks are known to have appeared at shows across the US.
Who is Chris Darnell?
Darnell, who is the Driver/Pilot of the Flash Fire Jet Truck and the SHOCKWAVE Jet Truck, has been involved in motorsports throughout his life. "He has many years of experience in the Motorsports Promotion business as well. Chris has competed in many different types of racing over the years from drag racing to circle track and beyond. He has literally done it all. Having experience on the production side of motorsport events as well as a performer/competitor in motorsports goes a long way towards making each show a success," the SHOCKWAVE and Flash Fire Jet Trucks website says.
It adds, "Chris also has a Bachelors Degree in Marketing/Advertising and Promotions from Missouri State University. Besides driving the Fastest Trucks in the world on the Drag Racing and Air Show circuit, Chris also owns a Truck Accessory Company called 4 Wheel Customs. Chris is now sharing the driving duties with his dad Neal in both the Flash Fire and SHOCKWAVE Jet Trucks." Neal Darnell, his father, is the owner of Shockwave Jet Truck & Flash Fire Jet Trucks.
Neal wrote of the accident on the company's Facebook page, "During today’s SHOCKWAVE Jet Truck performance at the Battlecreek Field of Flight Airshow an accident occurred as a result of a mechanical failure on the Jet Truck. Regretfully Chris Darnell the driver and my youngest son passed away from his injuries at approximately 1:01 pm. No one else was involved." He added, "We are so sad. Just one month ago Chris turned 40. He was so well loved by everyone who knew him. Chris so loved the Air Show business."
Acquaintances of Darnell offered their condolences to his family on social media. "I was sick to hear the news today. Please keep the Darnell family in your thoughts and prayers," Blake Hughes wrote on Facebook. "Myself and the guys at the shop have all had the privilege to work with Chris and there Flash Fire jet truck program on multiple projects throughout the years. He was an outstanding man, father, husband and son. He was never to busy to show interest to the littlest kids that was wanted to see the trucks. He will be missed by many."
Another acquaintance, Patty Sipes Mekus, wrote, "My heart just sank when I heard the news. Neal Darnell and Marilyn Darnell, we are holding you and all of your family in our prayers. God Bless you all." "Blue skies and tail winds to you Chris. My condolences to Neal Darnell and Marilyn Darnell and the entire Shockwave Jet Truck Team. Such a class act and down to earth guy. RIP," wrote Ken Strohm.