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The driver of an exhibition jet truck was killed today after the truck exploded. It happened at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival at the Battle Creek, Michigan airport. This crash occurred during the “pyrotechnic portion” of the special 75th anniversary of the U.S. Airforce air show. The Shockwave Jet Truck, driven by 40-year-old Chris Darnell, was racing two aircraft before the explosion. 

“Oh boy, we’ve got an incident here”

Spectator video shows a small fire began behind the truck. It then slides, and a large fireball appears before the truck crashes. “Oh boy, we’ve got an incident here with our Shockwave at Air Show Center,” the announcer said after the crash. There were no other injuries.

The air show released a statement saying, “Out of respect for the incident that has occurred,” from a statement by the Battle Creek Field of Flight organizers. “The remaining air show performances were canceled today; the air show will return on Sunday,” police said. “Saturday evening activities will continue as scheduled today, as will all activities on the schedule for July 3 and 4.”

How did the exhibition truck crash?

Shockwave jet truck | Shockwave

Springfield, Missouri’s Darnell Racing Enterprises built the Shockwave exhibition truck. It featured three flame-throwing jet engines. Darnell Racing’s website says Shockwave could exceed speeds of 350 mph. The website also says that motorsports racing consumed Darnells “entire life.” 

Besides the planned 300 mph runway sprints by the Shockwave semi-truck, pyrotechnics and aerial stunts by performance aircraft were part of the scheduled activities. While racing down the runway, the jet truck was observed to have flipped, followed by a fireball. This is the first death occurring at the annual event. 

“There’s death and risk”

Shockwave jet truck | Shockwave

“With anything that our performers do, the civilian air show, Shockwave, the military; they’re all putting themselves in harm’s way as entertainment,” said Ryan Traver a board member of the Field of Flight organization. “But there’s death and risk involved, and today, we saw the absolute worst that we ever dreamed that we want to see.”

“To watch something like that unfold, live, in front of your face is really kind of sobering and traumatic,” Bryan Lacic told News 19 Battle Creek. Battle Creek Police, Battle Creek Fire, and the Federal Aviation Administration are all conducting an investigation into the tragic accident. They will eventually issue a summation of what caused the explosion that claimed Darnell’s life. 

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