Daredevil 'Mad' Mike Hughes dies after homemade rocket launch ends in crash near Barstow

BARSTOW, Calif. -- Self-styled daredevil "Mad" Mike Hughes died Saturday after a homemade rocket in which he launched himself crashed into the ground near Barstow, his publicist confirmed. He was 64.

Hughes died after the rocket crashed on private property about 1:52 p.m. near Highway 247, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, which reported that a man died during a rocket launch event. The sheriff's department did not identify the person who died.

"It was unsuccessful, and he passed away," Waldo Stakes, a colleague who was at the rocket launch, told The Associated Press. He declined further comment.

Justin Chapman, a freelance journalist, told the AP that he and his wife witnessed the crash.

The rocket appeared to rub against the launch apparatus, which might have torn the parachutes attached to it, Chapman said.

The rocket came straight down into the ground, Chapman said.

The rocket launch was intended to be one of three featured in a new Science Channel series, "Homemade Astronauts," which would chronicle the story of self-financed teams "in their cosmic quest to explore the final frontier on limited budgets." The steam powered rocket was supposed to launch Hughes 62 miles into the air, clearing the Karman Line, the border between's Earth's atmosphere and outer space.

The network released a statement, which reads in part: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his 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."

In March 2018, Hughes propelled himself about 1,875 feet into the air before a hard landing in the Mojave Desert.

"My story really is incredible," Hughes told the AP at the time. "It's got a bunch of story lines - the garage-built thing. I'm an older guy. It's out in the middle of nowhere, plus the Flat Earth. The problem is it brings out all the nuts also, people questioning everything. It's the downside of all this."

Though Hughes was widely regarded as someone who believed the Earth is flat, his publicist Darren Shuster said it was a publicity stunt that "just became one of our most successful campaigns over the last 17 years working together... He did not believe the world was flat."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.