“The pyro is on the grass,” she said. “The jet truck is running on the runway. From the crowd’s side, it looks like he’s driving straight through the pyro. But he’s not.”
A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said that because the accident involved a truck, not an airplane, the agency was not investigating. The Battle Creek Police Department, which is investigating, confirmed on Facebook the death of Mr. Darnell, 40, but said it had no more information about the crash. The department could not immediately be reached for comment.
The vehicle was owned by Darnell Racing Enterprises. Phone and email messages left for the company were not immediately returned on Saturday night. The truck was described on a website for it as being able to reach speeds topping 350 m.p.h. and as “the most powerful truck in the world,” with three engines providing 21,000 pounds of thrust.
“This is truly an assault of all your senses with huge flames coming out of the 3 after-burning jet engines, fire shooting out of the smoke stacks, intense heat, deafening noise, and SPEED!” the website said.
Mr. Traver said Mr. Darnell’s act included pyrotechnics, but he could not say whether that had anything to do with the crash. Several years ago, Mr. Traver wore a fire-retardant suit and rode in the Shockwave, a ride he called “a heckuva experience.”
“It’s just unreal to be in a vehicle with a jet engine and to be propelled from zero to 300 that quickly,” he said. “It’s not like it’s a car at a racetrack, where you’re slowly getting up to top speed. It’s zero to top speed.”