Jessi Combs, a television host and professional racer, died on Tuesday in Oregon while trying to set a world land speed record.
Ms. Combsâs death was confirmed in a statement by the Harney County Sheriffâs 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.
âPeople that loved her and followed her became family, all bonded together by adventure and passion,â the statement said. âHer fans adored her, and she lived to inspire them.â
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 âMythBusters,â the popular science program, and continuing hosting roles on âXtreme 4×4,â a show about off-roading, and âOverhaulinâ,â a show about revamping cars.
On Twitter on Wednesday, Adam Savage, a host of âMythBusters,â praised Ms. Combs as a âbrilliantâ builder, engineer, driver, fabricator and science communicator, who âstrove everyday to encourage others by her prodigious example.â
âShe was also a colleague, and we are lesser for her absence,â he added. âMy heart goes out to her family.â
After graduating from a Wyoming technical college with a degree in automotive fabrication, Ms. Combs found her way onto âOverhaulinââ and then âXtreme 4×4,â 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 âMythBusters.â
In the past decade, Ms. Combs had also participated in a number of competitive driving events. She became known as âthe fastest woman on four wheelsâ after a 2013 attempt at breaking the womenâs 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 womenâs landspeed record was set in the very place where Ms. Combs died, Oregonâs Alvord Desert, in 1976 by Kitty OâNeil, who reached a speed of 512.7 miles per hour.
On Instagram on Wednesday, her colleague Terry Madden confirmed her death, writing that âshe was the most amazing spirit that I have ever or will ever know.â
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.
âIdeas, dreams, and goals morph as we experience life, so Iâm not sure I can look at it like thereâs something I havenât yet achieved since I will always be striving for something more,â she said.