A tentative cause has been announced for the horrifying 300 mph Jet Truck explosion which killed driver Chris Darnell. The family are devastated but have two things to help hold them together. First, Chris died doing what he loved most. Second, it happened so fast he probably didn’t suffer any.
Shockwave Jet Truck Explosion
Chris Darnell was driving the custom-built jet engine-powered Shockwave Jet Truck when the high speed explosion happened. He was racing two jet planes at an Air Show and Balloon Festival in Battle Creek, Michigan.
The father of the 40-year-old explained that “the truck burst into flames after a blown tire ruptured the fuel tank.” Most people, his dad relates, “don’t like their jobs. Chris loved his job. He would say on a fairly regular basis that he was living the dream and I loved that for him.”
It’s typical for the rocket rig to clock upwards of 350 mph in regular races at air shows across North America. Neal Darnell, the driver’s father is co-owner of Springfield, Missouri-based Darnell Racing Enterprises. He relates that on another day, that explosion might have happened with him driving.
“As the tire came apart it ruptured the fuel tank on the left side of the truck and that, of course, initiated the fire. It happened so quickly that Chris didn’t even have time to react.”
Video of the explosion taken by one of the fans depicts the truck “catching fire before flipping down the runway at Battle Creek Executive Airport.”
After watching the video loop for a while, Neal was able to inspect the truck wreckage. He was not happy to relate this was the only accident “Darnell Racing Enterprises has had in 20 years.” It was still one too many. Chris leaves behind a wife and two young daughters.
Spectators were stunned
It appears the blast happened at the same time the driver deployed his parachute. The vehicle was moving around 300 mph at the time as it was suddenly “engulfed in flames and a large plume of black smoke.” Fans didn’t realize at first it wasn’t part of the “pyrotechnic” event.
One spectator, Suze Gusching told reporters the driver “was doing his show and going down the runway He passed by the explosion, and his truck had exploded.”
Obviously, the explosion occurred way too fast for the eye to follow. It startled the pilots, too. They had to fly through the smoke and shrapnel and thankfully came out unharmed.
Video shows how the fireball formed ahead of the truck, which then “barreled into it.” By the time it came “flying out of the other side, it significantly slowed and was covered in thick smoke.” The audio picks up the “ohh” as fans realize that wasn’t part of the show.
At the same time the crowd begins to understand “the situation had just turned dire,” an announcer advised everyone to “stay back while emergency teams assisted the scene.” There wasn’t much they could do after that explosion.
The Shockwave truck sported “three Pratt & Whitney J34-38 jet engines, which were originally used by the US Navy’s T2 Buckeys planes.” Their family run business also runs the Aftershock Jet Fire truck and the Flash Fire Jet truck.