Details about Jessi Combs accident and its cause which led to death

April 18, 2024
10 mins read

Jessi Combs was an American television show host, professional racer, and metal fabricator. Most popular for breaking and setting new racing records, she was dubbed as ‘the fastest woman on four wheels’. She was also known for her work as a television show host of a number of popular shows, such as “Overhaulin'”, “Xtreme 4X4” and “Mythbusters”. Unfortunately, the talented racer met with a tragic accident that would prove fatal. What happened to Jesse? What was the cause of the accident that caused her untimely death? Read on to learn more about the tragic death of Jesse Combs.

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Her early life and family background

Jessica Combs was born on 27th July 1980, in Rockerville, South Dakota, USA, to Jamie Combs and Nina Darrington, the oldest of two younger full siblings Danielle Theis and Kelly Combs, as well as three step-siblings, Arielle Hall, Rebekah Hall and Austin Darrington. Her great-grandmother, Nina DeBow, was both a jazz pianist and racecar driver with Stanley Steamers. When Jessi was two years old, her family relocated to Piedmont, South Dakota, where she would spend most of her early years. Combs obtained her primary school education in Piedmont before matriculating from Stevens High School in 1998. Growing up, Jessi had a great passion for speed racing and machinery that ultimately became her lifelong passion. Her family encouraged her interests and enabled her to explore around them, allowing her to appreciate off-road racing among many other forms of racing. In addition to her love for automobiles, she was an avid artist, and spent most of her free time creating things with her hands.

After matriculating, she was offered a full scholarship to a prestigious interior design school, but turned it down, instead traveling across the US and settling in Denver, Colorado to pursue a career as a snowboarder. Unfortunately, she soon realized that snowboarding was more physically demanding than she’d thought, and so changed career, opting for something that would include her dual love for speed racing and her artistic ability. She relocated to Laramie, Wyoming in pursuit of a degree in Custom Automotive Fabrication at WyoTech, studying programs including Chassis Fabrication, Trim/Upholstery, Collision and Refinishing, and Street Rod Fabrication, graduating at the top of her class in 2004.


Metal fabricator

Immediately after graduating, she was offered her first job by the WyoTech marketing department, which hired her and fellow student Ben Bright to build a car from scratch in just six months; it was to debut at the iconic Las Vegas Specialty Equipment Marketing Association – SEMA show. Thanks to her skills in fabrication, the car didn’t fail to impress, eventually being auctioned for charity. Following the success of her first project, Jessi went on to complete countless high-profile projects, building cars on television, for clients and companies.

She then moved to Long Beach, California to continue her career as a metal fabricator, and sometime later, she opened her own fabrication shop in California, where she regularly took on new projects up until her death in 2019. Her attention to detail, impressive skills, and hard work earned her many clients, providing her with a steady job.


Although television was not her desired career path, it enabled her to pursue her dream career. She made her television debut in “Overhaulin’” as a guest fabricator, followed by a co-hosting job on “Xtreme 4X4”, a part of “Powerblock” aired on Spike TV. She held the job for four years, appearing in more than 90 episodes of the show. Along with her co-host, Ian Johnson, the pair built various automobiles ranging from street trucks, race trucks, trail rigs, and trailers— utterly impressing their millions of viewers.

In 2007, following a near-death accident (explained in detail below), Jessi left the show to pursue other opportunities, and the following year made many appearances in shows such as “TruckU”, “DuplicolorTV”, “Full Throttle TV”, “2 Guys Garage”, and “Bosch 125” as well as making a guest appearance at the “SEMA Show Special” and “Pirate4x4 Live”. She took up her most popular role in 2009, as the co-host and builder in the seventh season of “Mythbusters“, briefly replacing Kari Byron who went on maternity leave. She appeared in twelve episodes of the show, and despite her short run, it became her most recognized work as a TV host.

Jessi continued to evolve her skills as a TV host, while simultaneously maintaining her passion as a metal fabricator and automotive builder. The Velocity Channel – now Motor Trend Network – became her television home, appearing in many shows on that channel. In 2011, she took on the relaunch of her debut show “Overhaulin'” alongside Chris Jacobs, and co-hosted the sixth season. That same year, she became one of the hosts of “All Girls Garage”, an all-woman show which depicted them repairing, upgrading, and even rebuilding new and classic cars, which she held from 2011 to 2014. She then co-hosted “The List: 1001 Car Things To Do Before You Die”— an Autoblog series also on Velocity Channel— alongside Patrick McIntyre.

Her most recent role was on Discovery Channel in the panel show “Break Room”, as well as a guest starring episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage” in which she drove a Bugatti Chiron. Her work on television inspired women and girls as it opened up opportunities for females in automobiles and metal fabrication. During training for the programs she hosted, she got to drive an array of vehicles that include supercars, monster trucks, hot rods, rally cars, four-wheel, two-wheels and even no-wheels drives!



Following in the footsteps of her great-grandmother, Jessi became a professional racer. Thanks to her time on television, she had extensive training and experience in driving a range of automobiles. Some notable races of hers include the 2011 Score Baja 1000, Ultra 4 Glen Helen Grand Prix, Ultra 4 Western Region Series, Ultra 4 National Championship, and Ultra 4 King of the Hammers, all in 2014. She reattempted the Score Baja 1000 in 2015, followed by Rallye Aicha des Gazelles—an off-road race, and participated in the grueling Ultra 4 King of the Hammers both in 2016 and 2017. Throughout her racing career, Jessi made and broke a number of records, consistently improving her skills. As a result, she had a largely successful racing career, making her one of the top female racers of the era.

Idol—Kitty O’Neil

One of the most significant people in her life was former stunt person Kitty O’Neil. Her idol set the women’s land speed record at 512mph in 1976, on the Alvord Desert in a rocket-powered three-wheel car. The two were similar in more ways than one, even facing most of the same struggles in their racing careers – Kitty faced sexism, capitalism, and stigma that hindered her success in the racing world. Her primary sponsor at the time disallowed her from using the car in order for her male partner, Hal Needham to set world records instead— something that never happened.

Despite the various setbacks she faced, she still went on to achieve a successful and inspiring career as a stuntwoman and racer, before retiring in 1982. Jessi respected her idol and was in awe of her achievements. So much so that before she made any attempts to break women’s records, she sought out her idol with the aim of asking for her blessing to break her record. Touched by her efforts, Kitty blessed her, and emotional moment captured on camera, and even included in Jessi’s biographical film.

Near-death accidents

Before her final accident that would lead to her tragic death, Jessi had a few near-death accidents.

  • During her childhood, she had a terrible accident, breaking her back. According to doctors, she would end up paralyzed or be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Fortunately, she recovered quickly, a miracle to her doctors.
  • During the filming of “Xtreme 4X4” in 2007, she had a freak accident when machinery folded her in two. After falling on her, the machine burst, fracturing her spike’s L3 and leaving her hospitalized and in therapy for more than eight months. The unexplainable accident caused her to have countless operations, be placed on bed rest and exhausting therapy, but she eventually bounced back to normal.
  • Yet another near-death accident of Jessie’s was in the Alvord Desert in Oregon during a top-speed attempt. Her car’s parachutes stopped working and she almost couldn’t stop the car. Finally, the car came to a shalt just as she was approaching some bushes. Going at 90mph, she was luckily able to apply the brakes just in time, to much relief.

What caused her death?

The Long Beach resident had been chasing a dream since 2012: to become the fastest woman on earth. She spent seven years attempting to break the record set by her idol Kitty O’Neil, getting faster after each run. She used the jet-powered North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger on a dry lake bed in the Alvord Desert, Oregon. On 27th August 2019, she broke the record at 522.8 mph, before crashing at that high speed. According to the Harney County Sheriff’s Office, the crash was caused by a mechanical fault in the front wheel. They determined that the late Jessi most likely hit an object during the run, causing the front wheel’s assembly to fail. After a complete investigation, they stated that the cause of death was blunt trauma to her head; Jessi passed away from her injuries at the scene. Officials revealed that the injuries caused her death, just before her vehicle was engulfed in flames. The record that she so passionately chased finally became hers, when it was confirmed by Guinness World Records in 2020— leaving her loved ones with conflicting emotions after her untimely demise.

Tributes to Jessi Combs

The news of her death was formally announced by her family on Instagram, breaking the hearts of fans and colleagues alike. Many celebrities posted their condolences, talking about her fighting spirit, dedication to her craft, and her brilliance. A former “Mythbusters” host, Adam Savage, said, ‘She was a brilliant … builder, engineer, driver, fabricator, and science communicator… strove every day to encourage others by her prodigious example’. Another cast member recalled Jessi for her toughness in all she did.

There were countless tributes to her life that included special and limited-time exhibits. In October 2022, HBO Max released an official documentary about Jessi Combs, entitled “The Fastest Woman on Earth”. Directed by Christopher Otwell and Graham Suorsa, it was filmed over a span of seven years, and includes scenes of her many accomplishments and her life story. It showcases the impact she made on the world, being an inspiration for women for generations.

The documentary begins with shots of her at top speed in the desert. Initially, the documentary wasn’t planned to be a complete biography of Jessi; the directors faced tough choices in deciding which parts of her history to include in the story. In an interview with Autoblog, Chris Otwell recalled, ‘… knowing that some of the audience would know something about her, but a lot of people wouldn’t… We were intending to focus on this chapter of her life, but in order to understand what it means for her, you have to know something about her past and where she came from. ‘. The result was a full-length documentary showcasing the inspiring life of Jessi Combs, preserving her legacy. The Jessi Combs Foundation was created in her memory, to inspire young women aspiring to a career in the automotive world.

Jessi’s Achievements

Jessi Combs proved to be a force to be reckoned with as she continuously broke records and accomplished things that few others have done. Despite being a female in a male-dominated world, she didn’t let anything stop her from achieving success. In 2011, she raced at the Baja 1000, finishing second in the Class ten division, followed by a race in the prestigious Ultra4 event, winning a special class, becoming the first woman to place at any event of that type.

In 2013, she set the women’s 4-wheel land speed record at a top speed of 440.7 miles per hour, which she broke in 2016 with a top speed of 477.6 miles per hour.

She was the first woman to compete in the “Race of Gentlemen” as well as the extremely tough “King of the Hammers” race, placing second in the latter race, earning her the well-deserved nickname of ‘Queen of Hammers’.


In 2017, she went to her home state of South Dakota to make history: she served as the first female Grand Marshal at a local motorcycle rally. Excited to be back where her dream started, she said of her future goals, ‘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.’.

After her death, she was awarded “The World’s Fastest Woman” by Guinness World Records. The official announcement reads: ‘The fastest land speed record (female) is 841.338 kph (522.783 mph), and was achieved by Jessi Combs (USA) in the Alvord Desert, Oregon, USA, on 27 August 2019. Jessi is the first person to break this record in more than 40 years.’.


Terry Madden was Jessi’s boyfriend and fellow team member on the North American Eagle racing team. He revealed heartbreaking details surrounding her accident, starting with the morning of her last day. He recalls Jessi waking up to an alarm and said “Let’s make history”, followed by an amazing morning for the couple. He was there when she had a number of good runs across the desert, albeit with a few safety issues that bothered her. The couple planned to go away to a cabin in Lake Tahoe the following night and were about to leave the desert. However, a determined Jesse, planned to do one last run that afternoon to back up her record, after which she would stop further attempts for good; she wanted to let her backup driver go for the record.

A regretful Terry said, ‘… It has torn me apart that all I had to do is say ‘Let’s go’ and we would have left before that run, she asked my opinion and I told her to go for it, if it was what she wanted. ‘. He paid tribute to her on his own Instagram, posting a collage of videos and photos of his late girlfriend, captioning it with,’ I’m not OK, but she is right here keeping me going.’. After her posthumous record, he wrote, ‘I really don’t know how I feel about this as no record could ever be worth her not being here, but it was a goal that she really wanted. And as hard as it is for me to even look at the car [she drove] without crying, I’m so proud of her.’.

While adding that Jessi dedicated her life to inspiring and lifting up others, he promised to continue her work.

The life of Jessi Combs is surely one for the history books, a fierce woman who didn’t let the difficulty of rising in a male-dominated world bother her. She always strove to do her best, and prove her worth to those who thought she didn’t belong there. Her spirit continues to live on, and she will be remembered for all the lives she touched.

Martha Clifford

As an Author at Net Worth Post, I guide a dedicated team in the art of revealing the stories behind the world's most influential personalities. Fueled by a relentless curiosity and a knack for uncovering hidden stories, I immerse myself in the intricacies of our subjects' lives, weaving together accurate data and compelling narratives. My involvement spans the entire editorial process, from the seed of research to the final flourish of publication, ensuring that every article not only educates but also captivates and motivates our audience.

At Net Worth Post, we are committed to providing thorough investigations into the net worth and life achievements of innovators across diverse sectors such as technology, culture, and social entrepreneurship. My method merges meticulous research with eloquent storytelling, designed to bridge the gap between our readers and the remarkable individuals who redefine our tomorrow. Through spotlighting their journeys to success, the hurdles they've surmounted, and their contributions to society, we aim to give our readers a deep and inspiring insight into the luminaries who are paving the way for progress and ingenuity in the modern era.

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