Jessi Combs, a television host and professional racer, died on Tuesday in Oregon while trying to set a world land speed record.
Ms. Combs’s death was confirmed in a statement by the Harney County Sheriff’s Office, which responded to the scene of the crash in the Alvord Desert in southeastern Oregon on Tuesday afternoon. The office said it did not yet know the cause of the crash.
In a statement provided to Jalopnik, the car publication, and others, her family said that Ms. Combs, 39, had been driving the North American Eagle, a 56-foot-long jetlike car capable of generating over 45,500 horsepower. The crash occurred on a dry lake bed.
“People that loved her and followed her became family, all bonded together by adventure and passion,” the statement said. “Her fans adored her, and she lived to inspire them.”
Ms. Combs was a lifelong racing fan whose love of cars and the sport led her into television, with a short run of appearances on “MythBusters,” the popular science program, and continuing hosting roles on “Xtreme 4×4,” a show about off-roading, and “Overhaulin’,” a show about revamping cars.
On Twitter on Wednesday, Adam Savage, a host of “MythBusters,” praised Ms. Combs as a “brilliant” builder, engineer, driver, fabricator and science communicator, who “strove everyday to encourage others by her prodigious example.”
“She was also a colleague, and we are lesser for her absence,” he added. “My heart goes out to her family.”
After graduating from a Wyoming technical college with a degree in automotive fabrication, Ms. Combs found her way onto “Overhaulin’” and then “Xtreme 4×4,” according to a biography on her personal website. In 2007, she suffered a spinal injury in an accident involving a large piece of machinery, after which she decided to leave that show. Two years later, she started appearing on “MythBusters.”
In the past decade, Ms. Combs had also participated in a number of competitive driving events. She became known as “the fastest woman on four wheels” after a 2013 attempt at breaking the women’s land-speed world record in which she reached a speed of 398 miles per hour, according to the biography.
In a run last fall, Ms. Combs was able to reach a speed of just over 483 miles per hour, according to her personal website. The current women’s landspeed record was set in the very place where Ms. Combs died, Oregon’s Alvord Desert, in 1976 by Kitty O’Neil, who reached a speed of 512.7 miles per hour.
On Instagram on Wednesday, her colleague Terry Madden confirmed her death, writing that “she was the most amazing spirit that I have ever or will ever know.”
In 2017, Ms. Combs made her way back to her home state of South Dakota to serve as the first female grand marshal of a local motorcycle rally. When asked by a local reporter about her future plans, she described them as always evolving.
“Ideas, dreams, and goals morph as we experience life, so I’m not sure I can look at it like there’s something I haven’t yet achieved since I will always be striving for something more,” she said.
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