Cause determined in fatal crash of Jessi Combs

Jessi Combs, the “fastest woman on four wheels,” was killed in a crash Aug. 27 in Oregon’s Alford Desert while trying to break her speed record. Pioneer file photo by Deb Holland

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PORTLAND, Ore. — The cause of the crash that claimed the life of jet-car speed racer Jessi Combs has been determined.

According to a prepared statement by the Harney County Sheriff’s Office, “Based on the evidence collected and examined at the scene of the crash and the evidence recovered by the North American Race Team it appears that there was a mechanical failure of the front wheel, most likely caused from striking an object on the desert. The front wheel failure lead to the front wheel assembly collapsing. The front wheel failure occurred at speeds approaching 550 miles per hour.”

Combs died from blunt force trauma to the head occurring prior to the fire that engulfed the race vehicle after the crash.

Combs, 36, died Aug. 27 while racing in a dry lakebed in a desert in remote Harney County, Ore.

Combs was widely known in the niche sport of jet-car racing and was attempting to break the Women’s Land Speed Record of 512 mph set in 1976 by Kitty O’Neil when she died. Jet cars are racecars propelled by jet engines.

She currently held the record as the fastest woman on four wheels — O’Neil piloted a three-wheeled vehicle — for a 398 mph performance in 2013 and had driven even faster in follow-up runs, but mechanical problems prevented those from making the record books.

Combs, who was born in Rapid City and lived in Long Beach, Calif.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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