If someone heard that some poor soul died at an airshow because their vehicle had a mechanical failure at 300 miles per hour, you would correctly assume that it was a jet-powered, though, very few people would guess that it was a jet-powered semi-truck. Last weekend, 40-year old Chris Darnell sadly lost his life after his jet-propelled Peterbilt crashed at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Ballon Festival in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Early afternoon on July 2nd, Chris Darnell was in his truck Shockwave racing against two inverted jets down a runway at Battle Creek Executive Airport. Shockwave is a modified 1984 Peterbilt powered by three Westinghouse J34-WE-48 engines. The engines produce enough thrust for Shockwave to exceed speeds of over 300 mph. During the race, Shockwave rolled after it rocketed past a pyrotechnic display. Even at a distance, the shine from the truck metallic debris was visible. Tragically, there was little chance that Darnell could have survived the crash.
Chris’ father Neal Darnell stated on the jet truck’s Facebook page that the incident was caused by an unspecified mechanical failure. He would continue on, stating:
“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.”
From the wave of condolences in the wake of his death, it is clear that Chris Darnell was a respected and cherished member of the airshow community. The speed and visual spectacle of a jet-powered semi-truck is certainly a draw for crowds, but sometimes it is easy to forget the danger involved until moments like this.