The Shockwave Jet Truck accident that claimed the life of driver Chris Darnell at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show on July 2 was likely caused by a blown tire, according to Battle Creek Police.
In a release, police said that as Darnell drove his Shockwave Jet Truck down the Battle Creek Executive Airport runway at speeds of 340 mph, a piece of tire debris could be seen flying off the back of the truck, indicating a blown tire.
Shortly after the blow, Darnell launched his parachute. Police said his family suggested the parachute launched sooner than normal, perhaps because Darnell sensed a problem. The truck continued forward, and there was an explosion on the back of the truck, likely caused by tire debris and possibly a fuel tank rupture. The explosion caused the back end of the truck to twist left before it veered right into the grass, flipping four times.
Battle Creek fire and police crews arrived at the accident in one minute, and Darnell was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Battle Creek Executive Airport team inspected the airfield before the activity began, finding no issues. They also inspected the airfield immediately after the accident, finding broken runway lights and ruts in the grass caused by the crash.
The Federal Aviation Administration is aware of the incident and was at the airport because of the Field of Flight event. They did not officially investigate the airfield or the truck, because it was a non-aircraft vehicle.
Darnell, a 40-year-old married father of two teenage daughters, drove the Shockwave Jet Truck as part of the Darnell Racing Enterprise show team. The team, which includes his father Neal Darnell, is based in Springfield, Missouri.
"We are so sad. Just one month ago Chris turned 40. He was so well loved by everyone who knew him," Neal Darnell wrote on Facebook. "Chris so loved the air show business. He was 'living the dream' as he said."
According to the team’s website, the Shockwave Jet Truck features three Pratt and Whitney J34-38 jet engines originally used in U.S. Navy T2 Buckeyes. The engines produce 36,000 horsepower and provide 21,000 pounds of thrust, allowing the truck to exceed speeds of 350 mph.
A representative with GoFundMe shared that a fundraiser has been created to assist the Darnell family. The link to the fundraiser can be found by typing "Support for the Chris Darnell Family" on GoFundMe's website.
USA Today contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Nick Buckley at email@example.com or 269-966-0652. Follow him on Twitter:@NickJBuckley
This article originally appeared on Battle Creek Enquirer: Police: Blown tire likely cause of fatal Shockwave Jet Truck crash