Daredevil ‘Mad Mike’ Hughes killed when rocket launch goes awry

Mike Hughes, who billed himself as the “world’s greatest daredevil,” was killed Saturday in California during the launch of a homemade rocket that went awry, his publicist confirmed. He was 64.

Hughes, a self-made engineer who went by the nickname "Mad Mike," was captured on video as he rode a rocket into the sky, the Los Angeles Times reported. Hughes failed to activate a parachute and fell to his death, according to Darren Shuster, his public relations representative.

Hughes was attempting to launch the steam-powered rocket 5,000 feet into the air from an area near Barstow, California, Space.com reported. Hughes built the rocket with partner Waldo Stakes. The Science Channel, which was filming the launch as part of the future documentary series "Homemade Astronauts," also confirmed Hughes' death, the website reported.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mike Hughes’ family and friends during this difficult time. It was always his dream to do this launch, and Science Channel was there to chronicle his journey,” the Science Channel said in a statement.

In a statement, the San Bernadino Sheriff's Office did not identify Hughes, saying only that authorities had pronounced a man dead at the scene of the rocket crash, CNN reported.

"Everyone was stunned. They didn't know what to do," Justin Chapman, a freelance writer who said he attended the launch, told the Times. "He landed about a half a mile away from the launch pad."

Hughes has attempted to launch homemade rockets several times. In 2018, his rocket reached a maximum height of 1,875 feet, Space.com reported. Hughes suffered compressed vertebrae from that flight, the website reported.

Before that launch, Hughes told The Associated Press that he believed Earth is flat — or, in his words, "shaped like a Frisbee," the Times reported. Hughes told the AP he wanted to fly into space to make sure.

Shuster, who did not attend Saturday’s launch, said the flat Earth argument helped bring sponsorships and publicity for Hughes.

"I don't think he believed it," Shuster told the Times. "He did have some governmental conspiracy theories. But don't confuse it with that flat Earth thing. That was a PR stunt we dreamed up."

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