Battle Creek Police believe a blown tire caused the jet truck accident and death of 40-year-old Chris Darnell on Saturday.
The accident happened at about 1:10 p.m. Saturday during Darnell’s air show performance at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival. Field of Flight is held at the Battle Creek Executive Airport.
Darnell drove the SHOCKWAVE Jet Truck during the show, racing it down the runway at speeds reaching 340 mph.
After investigating the accident, police said Darnell started his run successfully, but seconds into it, they could see a piece of tire debris flying off the back of the truck – appearing to indicate a blown tire.
Shortly after the blow, Darnell launched his parachute. Police said his family has suggested the chute 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 the tire debris, and possibly a fuel tank rupture. The explosion caused the back end of the truck to twist left, and the truck veered right into the grass, flipping three or four times.
It took just one minute for Battle Creek Fire and Police crews to respond to the accident. Darnell died at the scene.
The airport team inspected the airfield Saturday before the air show began, and also immediately after the accident. They found no issues beforehand. Afterward, they found some broken runway lights and ruts in the grass, both due to 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.