Performer Dies in Airshow Accident

Shockwave Jet Truck driver Chris Darnell was killed over the weekend in an event in Michigan.

An airshow stunt involving a jet truck and pyrotechnics went terribly wrong Saturday in Michigan, killing the truck’s driver, Chris Darnell. A mechanical failure is suspected as the cause of the accident.

Darnell, 40, was driving the Shockwave Jet Truck at the Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival in Battle Creek, Michigan, when the accident happened. The act calls for the truck, traveling in excess of 300 mph, to race a jet down the runway. 

Chris Darnell

Video of the accident shows Darnell accelerating down the runway, heading toward a wall of fire when the truck’s rear driver’s side tire appears to fail. The truck spins out of control, flips, and bursts into flames. When the video is slowed down for a frame by frame review, more tire parts are seen flying away from the burning truck.

The airshow announcer’s voice shakes as he notes this was not a part of the act.

Darnell shared the driving duties of the Shockwave Jet Truck with his father, Neal. The elder Darnell took to Facebook to share the news of his son’s death.

“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 p.m.”

The elder Darnell continued, “Just one month ago Chris turned 40. 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.”

Chris Darnell in the cockpit of the Shockwave Jet Truck. [Courtesy: Shockwave]

According to the Shockwave website, the Michigan performance was one of many scheduled for this year. The performances are loud, filled with fire, and well attended. 

According to Chris Darnell’s biography on the Shockwave website, he had been involved in motorsports his entire life. He competed in many different types of racing, including drag racing and circle track. He had hundreds of hours of experience driving the jet-powered truck in performances. The younger Darnell was also the owner of 4 Wheel Customs, a truck accessory company, and shared driving duties with his father in both the Flash Fire and Shockwave Jet Trucks.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for the Darnell family.


New to Flying?


Already have an account?