Jessi Combs' Jet Car Wreck Blamed On Wheel Failure At 550 MPH

Illustration for article titled Jessi Combs' Jet Car Wreck Blamed On Wheel Failure At 550 MPH

Back in August we were saddened to report that the “fastest woman on four wheels,” Jessi Combs, was killed while attempting to break her own land speed record of over 483 MPH in the jet-powered North American Eagle land speed record car. Harvey County Sheriff’s Office investigators have now determined that a front wheel collapse caused the wreck, which occurred as the car was traveling 550 mph.


A report from the sheriff’s office cited by Autoblog stated:

“...a mechanical failure of the front wheel, most likely caused from striking an object on the desert...”

...was the root cause, which would have caused the wheel structure to collapse, sending the jet car out of control. Investigators noted that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, which occurred before the vehicle was engulfed in fire.

The wheels on the North American Eagle are solid metal discs, and are arranged in a pattern with two front wheels in tandem along the centerline of the fuselage, then the two rear wheels on either side on outriggers.

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Technically it’s correct but I can’t help but nitpick the wording of the headline and initial description a bit.

It sounds to me like the wheel “failed” because it struck a rock or some other protrusion in the sand. Something it ostensibly wasn’t meant to handle and that wasn’t expected to be there. The wording kind of (I’m sure unintentionally) implies that it just up and failed.

Headlining it as front wheel failure is kind of like saying that President Lincoln died of cranial trauma.

Pedantry aside, as morbid as it is I guess it’s a good thing that things happened in the order that they did. My guess/hope is that it would have been rather quick and pre-fire.