Race car driver Jessi Combs, known by fans as the “fastest woman on four wheels” after she set a record with a jet-powered car, has died in a crash while trying to break another speed record.
Combs, 39, died on Tuesday afternoon (local time) while racing in a dry lake bed in a desert in remote Harney County, in south-eastern Oregan, local sheriff Brian Needham said.
The exact cause of her death is being investigated.
Combs was known for her frequent appearances as a co-host on TV’s MythBusters, a popular science and entertainment television show, and her death sparked an outcry of grief from fans and colleagues on social media.
her dreams and setting records! She may be gone, but she’ll never be forgotten. Our industry lost an icon today, once again RIP Jessi Combs
— Richard Ray Rawlings (@RRRawlings) August 28, 2019
Combs earned her title as the fastest woman on four wheels in 2013 when she set a record of 640km/h at the North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger.
In October 2018, she set a new top speed of 777km/h in a test run.
On Tuesday, she was trying to go even faster when she crashed.
A passionate supporter of women in the automotive industry, Combs has been described as an “amazing friend” with a fierce spirit.
Seven-time motorcycle land-speed record holder Valerie Thompson, known as the “fastest woman on two wheels”, shared her sadness on Twitter.
It's with a heavy heart that I pass along the news that Jessi Combs passed away yesterday while attempting to break a land speed record. I also had the chance to attempt this record but it wasn't my turn…this hits home for me. Godspeed, Jessi Combs. pic.twitter.com/bfE2N9Cy2k
— Valerie Thompson (@ValerieThompson) August 28, 2019
Terry Madden, Combs’ teammate on the North American Eagle racing team, said he was heartbroken.
“She was the most amazing spirit that I have ever or will ever know,” he wrote.
“Unfortunately we lost her yesterday in a horrific accident, I was the first one there and trust me we did everything humanly possible to save her!!”
View this post on Instagram
So I don’t know how to say any of this but it all needs said. I have never loved or been loved by anyone as much as this amazing woman @thejessicombs she was truly my unicorn and I enjoyed every single minute that I had with her. She was the most amazing spirit that I have ever or will ever know. Unfortunately we lost her yesterday in a horrific accident, I was the first one there and trust me we did everything humanly possible to save her!! I’m not ok, but she is right here keeping my going-I made her a promise that if this didn’t go well that I would make sure and do good with it, please help me with that, you are all going to see things on news please believe non of them.. we the family have drafted a release and it will come out today with more proper info, but I was just woke up by the media tracking me down and I need everyone of her true friends to do what she would want “take a deep breath, relax” and do good things with this. Please donate to nothing, I know there will be people try, we are finishing the documentary as she wished and the world will know the truth and her foundation will use those funds to do amazing things in this world and make her legacy live on properly. In the coming days her family and I will get the proper channels put together that you can then donate to that foundation but until you hear it from me wait please-I don’t want some asshole profiting off this (all ready had one try to sell us a video)… . . Love you all and thank you all for being such amazing friends to her, she dedicated her life to helping support others dreams and I promise I will continue that.
A post shared by Terry L. Madden (@terry_madden) on
In an Instagram post on Sunday, Combs had indicated she was hoping to break the women’s land speed record of 823km/h, set in 1976 by Kitty O’Neil when she died.
She wrote: “People say I’m crazy. I say, ‘thank you.'”
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It may seem a little crazy to walk directly into the line of fire… those who are willing, are those who achieve great things. . . People say I’m crazy. I say thank you 😉 . . . #fastestwomanonearth #almost #fasterthanfast #jetcar #afterburner #landpseed @landspeed763 #iwillgofaster #gottabreak512 #aimingfor619 #currentlyat483 #northamericaneagle #i❤️afterburners
A post shared by Jessi Combs (@thejessicombs) on
In a statement, Combs’s family said her “most notable dream was being the fastest woman on Earth”.
She studied automotive design and fabrication and appeared as a host on Spike TV’s Extreme 4X4 before a freak accident involving heavy machinery broke her spine.
After months of rehabilitation, Combs appeared on several television shows while honing her skills as a professional driver for movies and commercials.