Explosion at MI air show kills one as crowd looks on in horror; father says dead son was ‘living the dream’

(Video: WXMI)

An Independence Day celebration in Michigan was marred by tragedy Saturday when a fatal accident occurred while a jet-propelled truck raced against two airplanes.

The five-day Field of Flight Air Show and Ballon Festival at the Executive Airport in Battle Creek, Michigan commenced Thursday with events including concerts, fireworks and of course death-defying aerial stunts. However, all activities were brought to a mournful pause Saturday when 40-year-0ld Chris Darnell died while driving the Shockwave Jet Truck at speeds over 300 miles per hour down the runway, as reported by WXMI.

The accident was caught on film as Darnell accelerated down the runway with two planes flying inverted overhead. When the racer deployed his parachute, a mechanical failure occurred and as the truck past a pyrotechnics explosion, it appeared to roll sideways as it burst into flames.

Neal Darnell, fellow racer and father of the victim, took to Facebook to address the loss of his son, “During today’s SHOCKWAVE Jet Truck performance at the [Battle Creek] 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 went on to write, “I will post more information as we get it. We will provide Funeral Arrangements sometime this week. 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. He was ‘Living the Dream’ as he said. Neal Darnell.”

Field of Flight board member Ryan Traver told WXMI, “It’s an absolute tragedy. It’s going to be hard to get over it, and it’s, it’s so, so new, fresh, unreal. I don’t know. I can’t put words on it right now. I just feel for the family.”

Spectator Russ Blake who reported having seen Shockwave race on numerous occasions explained, “When the engine blew, we’ve got a video of it and we were playing it back. It looked like it blew off the rear tires and, when that happened, that caused the truck to go sideways. And when the truck went sideways, it tipped up on its side, and it flew at least 300-feet through the air sideways, looking right up, the afterburners of the engine. And then it hit and started to roll and burst into flames. That was bad.”

Traver added of the inherent risk, “we saw the absolute worst that we never dreamed we would want to see.”

Battle Creek Fire Department, Battle Creek Police Department, the Federal Aviation Administration and Air National Guard were reported to be investigating the crash and the remainder of Saturday’s events were cancelled.

After the news broke of Darnell’s death, tributes poured in for him, his family and the team as they deal with the loss.


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