“Front wheel failure” caused Jessi Combs’ fatal crash

An investigation into the crash that killed land-speed record holder Jessie Combs has concluded that the accident was caused by “a mechanical failure of the front wheel, most likely caused from striking an object in the desert,” according to the Harney County (Oregon) Sheriff’s Office. Multiple media outlets reported the findings.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/11/05/front-wheel-failure-caused-jessi-combs-fatal-crash

Teslas are driving coast to coast driver-less. Why isn’t testing being done autonomously to find the flaws in design. I understand drivers want to be involved in the records but let’s be smart about taking science projects out into the wild. We have that capability now.

The article didn’t say there was a design failure.
Mechanical failures can happen to anything.


Never heard of Jessi Combs before accident.


I remember her from episodes of Myth Busters and Overhauling and I see she also did appearances on All Girl Garage on the then Velocity Channel.

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That is your loss, I remember her from “All Girls Garage”, she was quite a skilled mechanic and fabricator, and did a great job of explaining what she was doing. She took that show from being a gimmick to being an actual source of information and also an inspiration to young women looking at automotive trades as a livelihood. She was good on Myth Busters and Overhauling, but All Girls Garage is where she shined.


She also shined on that 4x4 show. She built all kinds of cool stuff on that show and was one of the main people on the show way before the All Girls stuff.


Striking FOD on the track is not a flaw in design! But will always be an unavoidable risk when running at extreme speed on the salt flats.

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Sorry I disagree. Any crash or mishap is a breakdown in the safety chain. If indeed the front wheel did hit an object in the desert, then the question is why was the course not clear of objects that could cause this kind of damage. FOD is prevented in aviation, to a large degree, by runway inspections, runway sweeping etc… This should have been the case for this speed record run, If it was not a FOD incident, and the report is not conclusive ("most likely caused from striking an object in the desert,”), then it could be a design fault. That then is another breakdown in the safety chain, as in the B737 Max fiasco. There is no such thing as an “accident”, all crashes and mishaps are caused by a failure in some aspect of design, construction, implementation, or application.

You are right but I disagree with you last sentence. Do you know they did not clear the course and if they did maybe Jessie strayed off course to the extent that she hit some unforeseen object and secondly at 550 mph the object the object does not have to be of a significant size or it could have been a small hole or depression in the salt flat which is less likely to be spotted that an object.


I have no personal knowledge of this mishap. However if the car did indeed leave the prepared course then that would have been a failure in the implementation and application of the system. In commercial aviation the chances of an aircraft hitting a fixed object, terrain or man made is reduced to the extent that the chances of it happening are less than 0.3%. This is achieved by ensuring that the area around the flight track is clear of fixed objects, terrain or man made 99.97% of the time. This is why flying in a commercial airliner is the safest way to travel, without exception. This level of safety is only achieved by a massive amount of time, effort and money by government agencies and private industry. Perhaps in this case the amount of time effort and money exerted to achieve this record attempt was not enough to assure the safety of the event. Or it could simply be the other 0.3%, the failure of a human to achieve 100% of safety 100% of the time, we are after all flawed to some extent, me possibly more than others.

Using your model of aircraft safety is missing a huge piece of relevant information. You are talking about yards long stretches of runway, but land speed records are on the ground for miles. If your aircraft had to run along the ground for miles, it would strike an object eventually. Aircraft constantly collide with airborne objects. Land speed records run most times without incident. We still don’t know what the wheel struck, and I don’t know if wildlife is a threat or if breezes can bring stuff to impede the running surface, but Mother Nature is always changing the environment and can be unforgiving. That falls under the “Stuff Happens” category, and no amount of preparation can overcome that.


I agree with that. I’m sure that everything possible was done to avoid such an accident. But there is always some amount of uncontrolled risk when doing spectacular things over many miles of land. My best guess is wildlife.