Springfield Jet truck driver dies following explosion during Michigan performance

·3 min read

Editor's note: A fundraiser has been added to the end of this story.

A Springfield man has died following an explosion during a jet-fueled semitruck pyrotechnic performance Saturday in Michigan.

Emergency crews responded after the explosion occurred during the 1:10 p.m. performance by the Shockwave Jet Truck July 2. In a news release, the city confirmed the incident resulted in one death.

"(The driver) was doing his show and going down the runway," said Suze Gusching, media relations for Field of Flight. "He passed by the explosion, and his truck had exploded."

The driver of the Shockwave Jet Truck was 40-year-old Chris Darnell. He is part of the Darnell Racing Enterprise’s show team, which includes the Aftershock Jet Fire truck and the Flash Fire Jet Truck. The team is based in Springfield and confirmed Darnell's death on their Facebook page.

Shockwave Jet Truck driver Chris Darnell, 40, died Saturday during a fiery crash at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival.
Shockwave Jet Truck driver Chris Darnell, 40, died Saturday during a fiery crash at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival.

Darnell's father, Neal, wrote on social media that the family is overwhelmed with the condolences after losing their youngest son.

"Literally thousands of you have reached out," Neal Darnell said. "We wish we could personally answer every single one."

His son "so loved life" along with the air show and drag racing family, Neal Darnell went on to write.

"And what a Family Man he was to his wife Brooke and his two daughters Reese and Taylor," Chris Darnell's father said.

Funeral arrangements are pending. The incident is under investigation.

Sunday's airshow flown in Chris Darnell's memory

The Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show & Balloon Festival announced its Sunday's air show would be flown in honor of Chris Darnell.

Shockwave Jet Truck driver Chris Darnell behind the wheel. The 40-year-old died after crashing during a performance at Battle Creek Executive Airport Saturday.
Shockwave Jet Truck driver Chris Darnell behind the wheel. The 40-year-old died after crashing during a performance at Battle Creek Executive Airport Saturday.

"We lost Chris yesterday when an unfortunate incident took place," according to the announcement. "Words cannot describe the heartbreak we are experiencing. The Darnell’s have been a part of our event numerous times over the years and our hearts have been with them since the incident occurred."

Other entities are also showing their support to the Darnell family. The Sam Luna Band donated their paycheck. They and the Megan Rae Band also put out donation buckets, netting more than $2,000 raised over the period of two concerts Saturday night.

History in Springfield

News-Leader reporters met Neal Darnell in 2015, after Greene County emergency crews headed to a farm east of Springfield following reports of a plane crash.

Of course it wasn't a crash, but rather Darnell's jet truck, which he had been washing.

Neal Darnell talks about his jet truck Shockwave at his shop in eastern Greene County in 2015.
Neal Darnell talks about his jet truck Shockwave at his shop in eastern Greene County in 2015.

Part of that washing process means firing up the jet engines on the back of the 36,000-horsepower truck, and that made for some loud noises and a cloud of white smoke outside of Darnell's garage on Farm Road 205.

At that time, Darnell said he'd had Shockwave for about three years and he and his son Chris would take the truck to shows all over the country — where they do things like setting stacks of cars on fire or racing fighter planes.

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. 

Sara Karnes is an Outdoors Reporter with the Springfield News-Leader. Follow along with her adventures on Twitter and Instagram @Sara_Karnes. Got a story to tell? Email her at skarnes@springfi.gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Springfield jet truck driver dies following explosion in Michigan