Nicknamed the “fastest woman on four wheels,” Jessi Combs died in a jet-powered car trying to become faster. The 39-year-old was killed in a crash Tuesday while attempting to break a land-speed record in Oregon’s Alvord Desert, according to the Harney County Sheriff’s Office. The cause is under investigation.
Combs earned her nickname by breaking records. In 2013, she broke a 48-year-old mark when she reached 398 miles per hour in her North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger.
She set another record in 2016 when she drove nearly 478 mph, her fastest speed, in the same remote area where her life ended.
Combs had attempted to beat her own speed before: In a September Instagram post, Combs said she reached a new top speed of 483 mph.
“Unfortunately a piece of debris was sucked into the turbine intake. There is minimal damage, though game over for now," she captioned a picture of herself smiling in aviator glasses. “Looking forward to the next attempt of ludicrous speed.”
Tuesday’s fatal attempt in a dry lake bed resulted in a 911 call around 4 p.m., according to the Harney County Sheriff’s Office. Combs was pronounced dead at the scene, the authorities said.
Terry Madden, a member of Combs’s crew, confirmed her death in an Instagram post Wednesday, and said he was the first one at the scene.
“She was the most amazing spirit that that I have ever or will ever know,” he wrote in the post. Madden said he and Combs’s family are working on a documentary that Combs wanted to complete and that a foundation in her honor will help her legacy live on. He urged people to not give to any false donation pages that might pop up.
Combs, who described herself as a “stereotype breaker” and a “real deal” across her social platforms, was also an established metal fabricator and welder. She received a degree in custom automotive fabrication from WyoTech and established a line of welding gear for women.
She displayed her various sets of expertise on TV, appearing on shows such as “Jay Leno’s Garage” and hosting “The List: 1001 Car Things to Do Before You Die” and “MythBusters.”
Combs was also known for her time as a guest fabricator on Overhaulin', as a co-host of Xtreme 4x4 and All Girls Garage, among other things.
As news of her death broke Wednesday, her fans and former colleagues eulogized her on Twitter.
Kari Byron, who previously starred with Combs on “MythBusters," tagged their old show and remembered Combs for “always pushing limits.”
Former “MythBusters” co-host Adam Savage agreed. He lauded Combs for her presence on the show and passion for encouraging others.
“I’m so so sad, Jessi Combs has been killed in a crash,” Savage wrote on Twitter. “She was a brilliant & too-notch builder, engineer, driver, fabricator, and science communicator, & strove everyday to encourage others by her prodigious example. She was also a colleague, and we are lesser for her absence.”
In one of her last social media posts, Combs is staring at the back of a jet car, overlooking the desert as her team attends to the machine.