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Jet Truck Driver Dies in Michigan Air Show Accident

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The driver of a jet-powered semi-truck was killed Saturday when the vehicle crashed in a fiery accident in Michigan, police said.

Battle Creek Police identified the victim as Chris Darnell, 40, who was behind the wheel of the Shockwave Jet Truck when it went through or through an explosion and appeared to be engulfed in flames, producing a streak of smoke and debris shown on video were recorded.

It was not clear whether that initial burst of flames, which created a cloud of black smoke, was part of the expected display at the annual Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival. The state government’s website promotes the event, noting that it features “pyro and the WALL OF FIRE.”

Two prop planes were performing aerial tricks and flying low above the truck as it hurtled over a runway at the Battle Creek Executive Airport when the accident happened.

In a post on the Jet Truck Facebook page, Darnell’s father, Neal Darnell, blamed mechanical failure for the accident.

“We are so sad,” Darnell said in the post. “Just a month ago Chris turned 40. He was so loved by everyone who knew him. Chris loved the Air Show business so much. He was ‘Living the Dream’ as he said.”

The truck was created by the late Les Shockley, said to be the pioneer of jet trucks, and has been operated by the Darnell’s since 2012, according to the International Council of Air Shows. The vehicle is based on a 1985 Peterbilt and is powered by three J-34 jet engines, the municipality said.

The semi-trailer could reach a speed of 300 mph. Chris Darnell claimed to have set the jet truck speed record, 375 mph, in his team’s 2005 Flash Fire jet-modified pickup truck in Florida.

No other injuries were reported after the crash, which was reported shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday.

Police said organizers canceled the rest of the day’s air show, but other festivities would continue as planned through the end of Monday.

The event also includes musical performances and fireworks.

Battle Creek police, firefighters and the Federal Aviation Administration were investigating the crash and its cause, police said.

CORRECTION: (July 4, 2022, 12:20 am ET): An earlier version of this article had the event name wrong. It’s the Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival, not Field of Light.

Michelle Acevedo contributed


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