A Rapid City woman known as "fastest woman on four wheels" died Tuesday while attempting to beat a land-speed record, according to a statement from her family. 

Jesse Combs, 39, was driving the North American Eagle jet car on a dry lake bed in the Alvord Desert of Oregon when the crash occurred. Details about what might have caused the crash have not yet been released.

The car racer, metal fabricator and television personality was known as the "fastest woman on four wheels" after driving 398 mph during the Supersonic Speed Challenger in 2013.

Combs was born in Rapid City and graduated from Stevens High School in 1998. In 2017, she returned to the Black Hills to be the first woman to serve as grand marshal of the Sturgis Mayor’s Ride.

"Jessi’s bright smile, positivity and tenacious pursuit of her dreams inspired everyone who met her," the family said in a statement sent to the Journal. "Her drive and spirit were infectious, and she served as a role model for young girls and women around the world. People that loved her and followed her became family, all bonded together by adventure and passion. Her fans adored her, and she lived to inspire them. Jessi’s most notable dream was to become the fastest woman on Earth, a dream she had been chasing since 2012. Combs was one of the rare dreamers with the bravery to turn those possibilities into reality, and she left this earth driving faster than any other woman in history."

Combs has a longtime passion for race car driving, speed and its machines, according to her website. She turned down a full scholarship to a prominent interior design school to travel the country and then move to Denver to pursue a career in snowboarding.

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Later, she moved to Laramie, Wyoming, to attend WyoTech after deciding she wanted a less physically demanding career, and one that involved cars and art. Combs graduated at the top of her class with a degree in Custom Automotive Fabrication and went on to work in the field.

She later began a TV career, building all sorts of vehicles as co-host of Xtrme 4x4, working as a guest fabricator on Overhaulin,' serving as the host for season seven of Mythbusters and appearing on other shows, her website says. Combs worked as a brand representative and developed the PPE women's line of welding gear with Lincoln Electric. She loved metal working, leather craft and photography.

Combs was seriously injured in 2007 when a large piece of machinery fell on her, fracturing her L3 spinal segment, according to her website. She was expected to have to use a wheelchair for the rest of her life but recovered after eight months of rest and therapy. 

She worked as a stunt driver for movies and commercials, driving everything from super cars to monster trucks to relics and hot rods, the website says. As a racer, she's broken speed records and became the first woman to complete or win certain events.

Combs became the fastest woman on four-wheels by driving 398 mph in 2013 and was hoping to break the overall women's land record held by Kitty O'Neil, who drove 512 mph in 1976, according to roadandtrack.com.

A celebration of Comb's life and the establishment of a foundation that will continue her efforts to empower women and young girls are being planned, according to the family. 

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— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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