Man Dead After Explosion at Michigan Air Show

By Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly covers world news with a focus on U.S. news. Contact her at
July 3, 2022 Updated: July 3, 2022

A 40-year-old man has died after an explosion at an air show in Michigan on Saturday, police said.

Chris Darnell, 40, was a driver of a jet-powered semitruck at the annual Battle Creek Field of Light Air Show and Balloon Festival.

According to a statement from the Battle Creek Police Department, Darnell was driving the SHOCKWAVE Jet Truck during the air show. The truck races over 300 mph down the runway at the Battle Creek Executive Airport.

“At about 1:10 p.m. today, during Darnell’s performance in the air show, an accident happened that resulted in his death,” the department said.

“The accident remains under investigation, with no new information available. Battle Creek Fire, Battle Creek Police, and Federal Aviation Administration Officials continue to investigate.”

The vehicle was headed down a runway at the Battle Creek Executive Airport when the explosion happened, according to air show spokeswoman Suze Gusching, the Battle Creek Enquirer reported.

“He was doing his show and going down the runway,” Gusching told the outlet. “He passed by the explosion, and his truck had exploded.”

Video of the scene showed prop planes performing aerial tricks and flying low above the Jet Truck at the time.

Air show performances were canceled for the rest of the day. The air show is expected to resume on Sunday. Other evening activities at the festival continued Saturday evening and have not changed for July 3 and 4.

The deceased man’s father, Neal Darnell, said in a statement posted on the Jet Truck Facebook page that the incident “occurred as a result of a mechanical failure on the Jet Truck.”

Neal Darnell said his youngest son “passed away from his injuries at approximately 1:01 pm” and that no one else was involved.

“We are so sad,” the father said. “Just one month ago Chris turned 40. 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.”

He added that funeral arrangements will be provided “sometime this week.”

According to the Michigan government’s website, the event is the largest combined air show and balloon festival in the United States and is “consistently voted as one of the best air shows in the country.”

“Featuring the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, US Air Force F-35A Lightning II Demo Team, US Navy F-35C Lightning II Demo Team, and US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet RHINO Demo Team plus some terrific civilian acts along with pyro and the WALL OF FIRE,” the website reads. “Fireworks, hot air balloons, night air show & more!”

The event is billed as a “terrific and affordable family fun aviation event.”

Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly covers world news with a focus on U.S. news. Contact her at