The Shockwave jet truck often raced against aircraft at air shows. That's what Chris Darnell was doing when he died Saturday in Battle Creek, Michigan. This photo is not from Battle Creek. It was provided by

Neal Darnell lost his son on Saturday at an air show in Battle Creek, Michigan.

“This knocks a hole in our world,” he tells me Tuesday morning.

Neal, who lives east of Springfield, was not at the Battle Creek July 2 show. He received a phone call informing him of his son’s death, and then headed to Battle Creek.

“I am overwhelmed,” he said. “We just got home from the show. We’re trying to decide what to do next.”

Chris Darnell had just hit about 300 mph in the Shockwave “jet truck” when it blew up while racing two small planes.

Chris Darnell, 40, died Saturday at an air show in Battle Creek, Michigan. (Photo courtesy of

The truck is equipped with three jet engines that produce 36,000 horsepower.

The accident was videotaped and is on YouTube.

Chris Darnell, who had just turned 40, drove what is considered the world’s fastest truck for a living, just like his father once did.

Chris did about 25 shows a year, his father says.

He leaves behind a wife and two daughters, ages 12 and 14, his parents, a brother and two sisters.

Chris Darnell’s family had just finished building a home east of Springfield.

The jet truck, which Neal Darnell bought in 2012, had become one of the top national attractions at air shows, despite not being an aircraft, Neal tells me.

One of the things the truck did was race aircraft. Chris would accelerate once the planes flew directly overhead and he would often catch them along a stretch of runway.

“I performed over 20 years and I never had an accident and, really, not even a close call,” says Neal, who at 73 no longer performs.

Neal Darnell says his son was a family man who went to Glendale High and Missouri State University. (Photo courtesy of

His son, he says, grew up racing cars at various tracks and loved racing the jet truck.

Yes, Neal says, it is dangerous — but racing, in general, is dangerous.

“It is a race car. It is just like racing in the Indianapolis 500. You know there is a risk and you hope nothing ever happens.”

The Shockwave jet truck once hit 379 mph.

Neal tells me he is 99 percent certain how the accident happened.

A video shows the jet truck racing down the runway at about 1 p.m. Saturday at the Battle Creek Executive Airport.

The truck passes behind a large, fireball explosion and then catches fire.

The fireball explosion had nothing to do with the accident, Neal tells me.

“That is just for show. He was racing two airplanes. He was running a little over 300 mph. A tire blew out. It hit another tire. And that tire went up and put a hole in the fuel tank.

“It destroyed our truck and killed my son.”

Neal calls his son a “family guy.”

A GoFundMe page has been established to support Chris’s wife and two daughters.

The company has two other jet trucks.

“We are not out of business. Chris would want us to continue on,” Neal says.

Another son, who is older than Chris, occasionally drives for the company, as does a son-in-law.

“This started out as a hobby 20 years ago, and it turned into a business. That is all Chris did. He said he was living his dream.

“I have had literally over 1,000 texts and messages and well wishes from his fans, his good friends and people that barely knew him.”

This is Pokin Around column No. 49.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin