Man dies after jet-powered truck crashes at Michigan Air Show


The driver of a truck that could exceed 350 miles per hour because it was powered by jet engines has died after the vehicle crashed on Saturday while piloting two planes during an air show in the Michigan, officials said.

The custom-built race truck, which had three jet engines and a combined 36,000 horsepower, crashed during the pyrotechnic portion of the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival in Battle Creek, Michigan, about 50 miles southwest of Lansing. .

Chris Darnell, the truck driver and a member of a family who had been in the air show industry for many years, was killed, said Barbara Haluszka, the festival’s executive director.

“Chris had an accident and the jet truck overturned and unfortunately he didn’t survive,” she said in a phone interview on Saturday evening. “All other details are 100% under investigation.”

In a statement, Mr Darnell’s father, Neal Darnell, said the accident was “the result of a mechanical failure on the Jet Truck”.

“Chris loved the air show industry so much,” he said. “He was ‘Living the Dream,’ as he put it.”

Videos from bystanders show the truck hurtling down a runway from Battle Creek Executive Airport to Kellogg Field in pursuit of the two planes, flames shooting from its back. An excited announcer says, “He’s coming fast! It’s coming very quickly!”

The planes involved were a Zivko Edge 540 piloted by Bill Stein and an MXS-RH piloted by Rob Holland, said Ryan Traver, a member of the festival’s board of directors, who added that the pilots of the civilian plane had no not been injured. It was not immediately clear how fast the planes had travelled.

A thick orange and black ball of fire can be seen in the foreground of the video, and the vehicle, called the Shockwave Jet Truck, disappears behind it and falls after emerging from the other side. Gasps can be heard in the crowd as the truck smashes into pieces along the track.

Despite what it looks like in many videos, the fireball was pyrotechnic and Mr Darnell did not break through the flames, Ms Haluszka said.

“The pyro is on the grass,” she said. “The jet truck drives on the track. From the crowd side, it looks like it’s going through the pyro. But he is not.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson said that because the crash involved a truck and not an airplane, the agency was not investigating. The investigating Battle Creek Police Department confirmed on Facebook the death of Mr Darnell, 40, but said they had no further information about the accident. The ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.

The vehicle belonged to Darnell Racing Enterprises. Phone and email messages left with the company were not immediately returned on Saturday evening. The truck was described on a website as being capable of speeds in excess of 350 mph and as “the most powerful truck in the world”, with three engines providing 21,000 pounds of thrust.

“It really is an assault on all your senses with huge flames coming out of the 3 afterburning jet engines, blasts of fire coming out of the chimneys, intense heat, deafening noise and SPEED!” says the website.

Mr Traver said Mr Darnell’s act included pyrotechnics, but he could not say if it had anything to do with the crash. Several years ago, Mr. Traver wore a fireproof suit and rode the Shockwave, a ride he called “a devilish experience”.

“It’s just unreal to be in a vehicle with a jet engine and to be rocketed from zero to 300 that fast,” he said. “It’s not like it’s a car on a circuit, where you slowly go uphill at top speed. It’s zero at top speed.


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