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Man dies in truck explosion at Battle Creek Field of Flight air show

Crowds watched in horror as a SHOCKWAVE Jet Truck burst into flames during the pyrotechnic portion of the show, killing its driver.

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — The victim who died after an accident at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival has been identified as 40-year-old Chris Darnell.

Battle Creek Police Department released the update on their Facebook page in coordination with Field of Flight.

Darnell drove the SHOCKWAVE Jet Truck during the air show. It races over 300 mph at the Battle Creek Executive Airport where the Field of Flight event occurs. 

Visitors were in shock when the truck exploded on the runway during the pyrotechnic performance.

The explosion was caused by a ruptured tire on the Jet Truck, Neal Darnell, Chris's father, said.

“As the tire came apart it ruptured the fuel tank on the left side of the car and that, of course, initiated the fire. It happened so quickly that Chris didn't even have time to react," Neal told The Associated Press.

Video from an audience member shows the truck catching fire before flipping down the runway at Battle Creek Executive Airport.

Neal, who also drives the SHOCKWAVE, said he concluded what happened after watching video of the accident and inspecting the jet truck. He said this was the only accident Darnell Racing Enterprises has had in 20 years.

Chris was Neal's youngest son. Neal said he turned 40 just one month ago.

"We are so sad," wrote Neal. "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 explosion happened around 1:10 p.m. Saturday afternoon. No one else was injured.

"Words cannot describe the heartbreak we are experiencing," wrote Barb Haluszka, a board member with the Field of Flight Show. "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."

The two bands at the event put out buckets for donations during their performances, raising over $2,000 for the Darnell family.

Haluszka says Chris was a "wonderful man, father, husband, son, friend and performer."

"We will miss you, Chris," she added.

The remaining air show performances were canceled, but the air show did return on Sunday. 

The other evening activities on Saturday continued as scheduled, as did activities on July 3 and 4. See more information at fieldofflight.com.

Chris's family will speak on funeral arrangements later this week. He leaves behind his wife and two young daughters. 

A GoFundMe for the Darnell family can be found here.

An interview with Brooke Darnell, Chris's wife, can be found below:


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