Racer And TV Personality Jessi Combs Dies In Oregon Crash

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
Aug. 28, 2019 5:48 p.m.

The racer and television personality Jessi Combs died Tuesday in Harney County.

Combs, 39, was attempting to break her own land speed record using a jet-powered car when she crashed in the Alvord Desert.


This type of “land speed testing” is something that local authorities said they can’t regulate in a meaningful way.

“It’s on public land that’s permitted by the [Bureau of Land Management], so there’s no laws restricting how fast they can go,” said Lt. Brian Needham with the Harney County Sherriff’s Office.

The Burns District Office of the BLM confirmed that Combs had a special recreation permit to drive in the Alvord Desert, and that she has received similar permits in the past.

The cause of the crash is unknown.


According to her website, Combs set the women's world land speed record of 440 mph in 2013. She was a TV personality on shows such as the Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters."

Andy Lilienthal is the strategic communications manager for Warn Industries, a Clackamas-based company that manufactures off-road vehicle equipment.

The company was one of Combs' most prominent sponsors.

Lilienthal said he had known Combs professionally, and as a friend, for 10 years.

"Jessi embodied everything Warn Industries stands for — integrity, passion, and perseverance — and she was an inspirational part of the Warn Industries family," he said. "She was extremely talented in countless ways: from her fabrication skills and racing prowess, to her ability to connect with people, motivate, and light up a room everywhere she went."

Along with her professional work, Lilienthal said Combs was an inspirational woman who impacted many people.

"Jessi was a woman who fought to help women achieve their goals and break through glass ceilings," he said. "She encouraged women and girls to succeed in a male-dominated field of welding, fabricating, and motorsports."

"Jessi was a powerful figure in motorsports—male or female. But her drive to empower women to succeed in male-dominated fields was second to none."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct Combs' age.