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#83365 - 01/19/07 02:18 PM Kati Kim describes harrowing week lost in woods
Pablo Offline

Registered: 12/14/06
Posts: 6
Loc: Texas

Cold, hunger and fear for the lives of his wife and children had taken a toll on James Kim by the time he left his family to find help.

Stranded in a wilderness for a week with little to eat, James Kim prepared on the morning of December 2 to leave his wife, Kati Kim, and two daughters in order to find help at what he hoped would be a town four miles away, according to report issued Thursday by the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association (OSSA). The group was asked to conduct a review of how the search for the Kims was handled and released its findings on Thursday.

James Kim, an editor at CNET Networks, and his family became stranded deep in a wilderness area in southern Oregon during a Thanksgiving road trip. Kati Kim and her two daughters were rescued a week later on December 4, but the body of James Kim was found on December 6. He had died of exposure and hypothermia following a 16-mile hike in ice, snow and water.

Kati Kim was interviewed on Monday by investigators and the OSSA report includes her account of how the family became lost, survived on little food or fuel for fires, and tried to contact rescuers. On December 1, the day before Kati and their two children were rescued, James Kim frantically attempted to restart a fire after hearing a helicopter nearby but failed because of the wet conditions.

The report also illustrates that the Kims realized very early that there was a chance that they wouldn't be rescued for an extended period and recognized the hazards they faced. They made a pact: "No getting wet. No getting hurt. No getting sick."

A combination of factors led to the family getting lost on the Oregon mountain roads, Kati Kim told investigators. First, the Kims missed several warnings that Bear Camp Road, a route they thought was a shortcut to their destination on the Oregon coast, was hazardous that time of year. A warning saying "Not all Roads Advisable, Check Weather Conditions" was posted in a "tiny box" on the couple's map but they didn't see it until days after they were stranded.

A gas station attendant in Merlin, Ore., gave James Kim "strange directions" and never indicated that the route could be dangerous, Kati Kim said in the report. As they made their way up Bear Camp Road, a snowplow parked near the road made the Kims believe that the road was maintained. Road signs told them that they were headed toward the coast.

Not until they saw a warning sign that read the road may be blocked by snowdrifts were they tipped off they were in trouble, the OSSA report said.

Just after the Kims drove past the sign, it began to snow. At that point, James Kim wanted to turn back, but "Kati thought it was too dangerous" to attempt turning the car around on the narrow road, according to the report.

"Kati was certain that they were going to be headed down the coastal side of the range any minute," the report said.

When the Kims ran into deeper snow, they tried to call 911, but their cell phones were unable to get a signal. The Kims parked the car at a "T" intersection and thought they'd soon be discovered.

The couple decided to remain where they were and use their remaining gas to keep the engine and heater going, Kati recalled in her interview. They were disappointed several times after hearing sounds they thought were snowmobile engines turn out to be the roaring water of the nearby Rogue River.

James Kim found a gate nearby and wrote a letter using his eldest daughter's crayon: "Low on Gas, Low on Food 2 Babies." He then stuck the note in a bag and hung it to the gate, investigators wrote.

The Kims' first few days were spent battling harsh weather. Kati Kim noted in her interview that the snow was so heavy that it "bent the tree branches nearly to the ground."

The couple quickly realized that help may not be coming for an extended period. They hunkered down, prepared for the worst and began rationing the food so that it would last two weeks "even if it meant one mouthful a day," Kati Kim told investigators.

The report noted that there was still rice cereal in the car when Kati Kim and her two daughters were rescued.

In the daytime, the Kims began creating signals and signs. They would stomp out large S.O.S. symbols in the snow. They honked the horn and yelled for help often.

On November 30, the Kims' Saab station wagon ran out of gas, the report said. James began attempting to keep a fire going. They punctured a tire and burned it hoping that someone would see the smoke.

"But the trees were so tall that the smoke seemed to dissipate before it got above the timber," Kati Kim told investigators.

On December 1, the Kims built a bigger fire using multiple tires and this time the plume rose high above the trees, according to the report.

In her recollections of that day, Kati Kim told investigators: "If they won't come save us, maybe they will come save their forest."

The feeling of triumph at building a large fire quickly evaporated. Moments after the fire went out the Kims heard a helicopter, Kati Kim said in her interview. James Kim "frantically tried to relight the fire," but was unable to because of the damp conditions. The Kims were dejected, according to the report.

Kati describes that afternoon, near dark about 4:30, as one of the toughest moments of their ordeal," officials wrote in the report. "They realized they had another night in the car."

On December 2, James Kim estimated that they were four miles from the town of Galice. In fact, the Kims were about 15 miles from the nearest town. James Kim set out at 7:46 a.m., Kati recalled in her interview, with lighters, scissors and extra colorful clothes to leave along his path to help find his way back. He promised to return if he found nothing by 1 p.m.

James Kim never returned. On December 4, Kati Kim and her two daughters were seen by a helicopter. Two other helicopters dropped food and she fed her daughters chocolate. The thirsty children couldn't drink because the Gatorade bottles dropped broke open on impact.

About 10 minutes later a helicopter landed and picked up the Kim women. It was only then that she learned that her husband had not yet been found, the report said.

Also during her interview Kati Kim acknowledged the "many who put her family first and put themselves in harm's way to help."

#83366 - 01/19/07 02:59 PM Re: Kati Kim describes harrowing week lost in woods
OldBaldGuy Offline

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 5695
Loc: Former AFB in CA, recouping fr...
"...James Kim wanted to turn back, but "Kati thought it was too dangerous" to attempt turning the car around on the narrow road..."

Well, Kati must live with that decision for the rest of her life...

#83367 - 01/19/07 03:13 PM Re: Kati Kim describes harrowing week lost in woods
thseng Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/24/06
Posts: 900
Loc: NW NJ
If you want a little bit more detail, the source for the article seems to be this report starting near the bottom of page 9 of the pdf (numbered as page six of 23):

EDIT - Sorry, pasted the wrong link:

Interesting to read Kati's story first hand rather than all the speculation...

Edited by thseng (01/19/07 04:27 PM)
- Tom S.

"Never trust and engineer who doesn't carry a pocketknife."

#83369 - 01/19/07 03:39 PM Re: Kati Kim describes harrowing week lost in woods
Coastie09 Offline
I didn't float test my chipping hammer, honest Chief!

Registered: 03/22/06
Posts: 104
Loc: Connecticut
Yet again, this illustrates the importance of keeping certain key things (basic tools, fire starters, warm clothing, water, food, signalling devices, as we know the list goes on) on your person/in the car at all times. And preparing before hand - good maps and as much info about your AOR as you can gather.

#83371 - 01/19/07 03:57 PM Re: Kati Kim describes harrowing week lost in woods
OldBaldGuy Offline

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 5695
Loc: Former AFB in CA, recouping fr...
"...Yep, and informing somebody if you change your travel plans while enroute..."

That is probably the hardest thing. Before we retired, my wife and I took many road trip vacations, and we are great for taking "side trips," and traveling with no real destination in mind, other than "Arizona" (or where ever). We would be going down some highway, see a sign for something interesting on some side road, and off we would go. And now we live in a motorhome, volunteering three months or so at some state park, then moving for a month. No one, us included, really know what route we will be taking on any given trip, other than in the general direction of our next "job."

We often go days,or longer, without talking to family, cell phones don't always work in the boonies we find ourselves in. So we were on our own. But we always have enough stuff with us to survive in relative comfort for several days, and with a little tummy shrinkage for weeks. Longer if we get stranded in the RV, 'cuz it is always fully stocked when we travel...

#83373 - 01/19/07 05:54 PM Re: Kati Kim describes harrowing week lost in woods
X-ray Dave Offline

Registered: 11/11/03
Posts: 572
Loc: Nevada
2 things strike me . the "maze of roads" and "a ranger would be along". Can't belive the just didn't back up and turn around. They did park in the intersection and she used the mirror to signal with.


Edited by X-ray Dave (01/19/07 06:24 PM)

#83374 - 01/20/07 01:41 AM Re: Kati Kim describes harrowing week lost in woods
GrantC Offline

Registered: 01/08/07
Posts: 35
What struck me is the lack of a particular detail that she provided in her previous media interviews: that they stopped at least twice to "move boulders off of the road."

That is what we call a "clue."

Her "official" statements also point out the dangers of cultural conditioning. They "expected" the roads to be plowed, because their previous experiences in heavily-traveled ski areas led them to conclude that they would be. They "expected" someone to come along and check the gates, because their previous experience in heavily used camping areas led them to conclude that they would be.

Assuming that things in an unknown area will be the same as those in a known area is dangerous.

#83375 - 01/20/07 07:33 AM Re: Kati Kim describes harrowing week lost in wood
cedfire Offline

Registered: 07/10/03
Posts: 659
Loc: Orygun
Exactly. Also, I understand from the report that James and Kati Kim mistook the noise from the nearby Rogue River to be "snowplows".

What is very interesting is that Spencer Kim, James' father, was not able to be reached in the three week time frame that the Oregon State Sheriff's Association conducted its review.

One has to assume that based on his latest letters submitted to the media, along with his inability to be interviewed, that there is a lawsuit brewing.

Unfortunately James Kim has passed on. No amount of money or compensation will bring him back. It was a tragedy that could have been easily avoided. There seems to be a lot of finger pointing at the authorities, but not much finger pointing at the two adults who placed themselves in that situation to begin with (especially with two small children accompanying them).

#83376 - 01/20/07 05:38 PM Re: Kati Kim describes harrowing week lost in wood
GrantC Offline

Registered: 01/08/07
Posts: 35
Your observation is correct. Whenever there is a "failed" search, there is almost always a lawsuit in the making.

Before this search had even ended, a friend of mine who also has SAR experience emailed me, suggested we start a pool to guess the filing date...cynical? Nawwww!

#83377 - 01/20/07 06:07 PM Re: Kati Kim describes harrowing week lost in wood
DesertFox Offline

Registered: 01/04/07
Posts: 339
Loc: New York, NY
Yep. It indeed looks like a lawsuit is on the way. Too bad. Spencer Kim could have used the pubilicity to help educate the public about the wisdom of being prepared for this type of situation (or better yet, the importance of not getting into this type of situation in the first place). Instead, it's starting to look like he is going "blame society" for this tragedy.

All the volunteers who risked their lives and gave their time to help in the search should be thanked, instead it looks like they are going to be deposed.

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