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Shockwave Jet Truck driver dies in crash at airshow

Longtime airshow entertainer and driver of the Shockwave Jet Truck Chris Darnell, 40, died in a high-speed accident during a performance at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow on July 2.
Portrait of Chris Darnell courtesy of Shockwave and Flash Fire Jet Team.

After the accident, Neal Darnell, Chris Darnell’s father, wrote on Facebook, that an accident resulting from "mechanical failure" caused his son's death, and that no one else was injured. "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.”

The custom-built race truck was powered by three J-34-48 Pratt & Whitney jet engines that produced a combined 36,000 horsepower and 21,000 pounds of thrust, which allowed it to travel at speeds of more than 300 miles per hour. The truck was owned by Darnell Racing Enterprises of Springfield, Missouri.

The Today show reported, “According to Darnell's family, one of the truck's tires blew out and caused the vehicle to ‘skid’ and for the ‘gas tanks to burst.’"

Video of the incident taken by airshow spectators and posted to social media shows the truck traveling down the runway at high speed until it appeared to veer out of control, flipped several times, and caught fire..

Local police and the FAA are investigating the accident.

Airshow performances were canceled for the remainder of the day, but resumed July 3 with a number of tributes to Darnell. AirshowStuff reported the July 3 show opened with a missing man formation over a gathering of airshow performers and crewmembers. Firewalkers International set off a pyrotechnic tribute during Darnell’s scheduled run and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds flew a tribute to Darnell that finished with a missing man flyover.

The Shockwave Jet Truck performs at an airshow. Photo courtesy of Shockwave and Flash Fire Jet Team.

Niki Britton

eMedia Content Producer
eMedia Content Producer Niki Britton joined AOPA in 2021. She is a private pilot who enjoys flying her 1969 Cessna 182 and taking aerial photographs.
Topics: People

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