Chris Darnell, pilot of the famed Shockwave jet semi truck, tragically perished in a high-speed accident while performing at an air show in Michigan Saturday. Darnell, 40, was taking part in Battle Creek, Michigan’s Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival, racing a pair of aircraft down a runway when an explosion occurred at the rear of the vehicle, sending the truck barreling out of control at what officials say was upwards of 300 mph.
“During today’s Shockwave Jet Truck performance at the Battlecreek 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 1:10 p.m.,” stated his father and the patriarch of the Shockwave racing team, Neal Darnell. “No one else was involved. 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.”
The Battle Creek Field of Flight issued its own statement, commenting, “Chris Darnell, 40, died today during the air show at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival. Darnell drove the Shockwave jet truck during the air show. At about 1:10 p.m. today, during Darnell’s performance in the air show, an accident happened that resulted in his death. The accident remains under investigation, with no new information available. Battle Creek Fire, Battle Creek Police, and Federal Aviation Administration Officials continue to investigate.
The remaining air show performances were canceled today; the air show will return on Sunday.”
The Darnell family and its Shockwave, Aftershock, and Flash Fire trucks have been a fixture on the air show and drag racing circuits for more than a decade. Shockwave, with its three J34-48 Pratt & Whitney jet engines, has clocked speeds as high as 376 mph, and would routinely top 300 mph in air show performances around the country. The truck was originally the creation of the late Les Shockley.
Chris leaves behind his wife, Brooke, and two daughters.