BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — A 40-year-old driver is dead after his jet-powered semi-truck performing at the Field of Flight in Battle Creek Saturday afternoon caught fire and crashed.
It happened around 1:10 p.m. at the Battle Creek Executive Airport during the Shockwave Jet Truck pyrotechnic portion of the air show, according to the Battle Creek Police Department.
Drivers and pilots were performing Field of Flight activities, which features pyrotechnics, aircraft performing aerial stunts, and the SHOCKWAVE Jet Truck racing them over 300 mph down the airport runway. During this maneuver, the jet truck flipped off the runway and burst into flames.
“All of a sudden, you just sort of this raging fireball going down the runway, and this ball of debris,” said Brandon Lacic, who was with his family watching the air show.
“One of my children looked up and said, ‘Dad, was that part of the act?’ And I said ‘I don’t think so. This is bad.’ Right away, the P.A. announcer came on and said, ‘We’ve had an incident… our personnel are getting out there and working on it,’” Lacic recalled.
First responders later confirmed that one person died from the incident. Field of Flight administrators then broke the news that the victim was the driver of the truck: 40-year-old Chris Darnell, a lifelong motorsports enthusiast and experienced racer.
According to his bio on the SHOCKWAVE Jet Truck website, Darnell had competed in different types of racing throughout his life and owned a Truck Accessory Company called 4 Wheel Customs. He shared duties with his father driving the SHOCKWAVE Jet Trucks.
The air show performances were canceled for the rest of Saturday but will return Sunday. Other Saturday evening activities including balloons will continue as scheduled. All activities planned for Sunday and Monday will resume as normal, officials said.
The crash and its exact cause is being investigated by Battle Creek Police, Battle Creek Fire, and the FAA.