Jessi Combs will always be remembered for her grit and ambition. Her dream was to be “The World’s Fastest Woman.” According to Guinness World Records, she now holds that title just over 10 months after her death in the rocket car that propelled her to that record on August 27, 2019.
Combs, 39, was killed in the dry lake bed of the Alvord Desert when her jet car, the North American Eagle – essentially a 1957 Lockheed F-104A-10 Starfighter military fighter jet on wheels – had a mechanical failure during the return pass of the record attempt. Prior to the crash, she achieved a combined speed of 522.783 miles per hour, enough to surpass the record of 512.710 mph set by deaf stuntwoman Kitty O’Neil at the same Southeastern Oregon dry lake bed in the jet-powered, three-wheeled SMI Motivator in 1976.
During an event celebrating her life in September 2019, Combs’ family stated, “She left this earth driving faster than any other woman in history.”
Combs did two runs. The first reached 515.346 mph and the second one was 548.432 mph. The average (531.889 mph) was submitted to Guinness. The speed, still the women’s record, was adjusted by Guinness.
According to an Instagram post, the daredevil was “#aimingfor619,” meaning she had hoped to achieve a combined speed of 619 mph. She also posted, “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 ;)”
After an investigation into the accident, the Harney County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon determined the crash was caused by “a mechanical failure of the front wheel, most likely caused from striking an object on the desert.” Further investigation revealed that Combs was killed by “blunt force” and not the subsequent fire that burned the jet car.
Beyond her quest for speed, Jessi Combs was a well-known media personality who appeared on several shows, including Overhaulin’ and All Girls Garage and The List.