December 6, 2006

James Kim.

It's so sad to read about James Kim, who set out to save his family and did not even have the chance to know, as he was dying, that his wife and daughters would survive.

32 comments:

Mark Murphy said...

Indeed.

Elizabeth said...

I've been following this story since the weekend, and I'm heartbroken.

We've been fans of his for years now, starting with his TechTV days. I've got three CNET episodes on the Tivo right now, and I don't know if I will be able to watch them, knowing he'll be on them. He's always struck me as a nice, smart, good guy, who loves his little girls. What a sad, sad day.

Anonymous said...

Between this and that huge explosion just down the road in Milwaukee, a sad day all around ... the story of the Kim family is especially heartbreaking.

Joe said...

Without being crass, how do you use moments like this to educate people on what not to do when in a similar situation?

Granted, there are dramatic exceptions, but by and large, remaining with your vehicle is the best course of action. (Not only is more readily identifying by searchers, but will tend to be within the search pattern. Setting out on foot will also use up precious energy. An unskilled hiker will also tend to walk in circles.)

alphie said...

How sad.

To be so unlucky twice.

To get stuck in the wilderness in the first place and then to go for help just before help arrived...

Dave said...

Agree with Joe.

Ann Althouse said...

I can't believe anyone would derail this thread, but I have had to delete some comments. Shame on you.

SteveR said...

Joe is right, at least stay on a road. Very sad

Ernst Blofeld said...

I've been over that road. On the map it looks tempting; a nice straight line from I-5 to the coast. The reality is that it's gravel for a long stretch and goes over some fairly high mountains, and it's part of a network of badly signed logging roads. There's NOTHING out there, and I mean nothing. It's all federal land and there are no houses. The biggest place is Agness, and that's a tiny store and a dozen people. The road is mostly used as a summer shuttle route for kayakers and hikers doing the Rouge River.

Trying to walk out in this case wasn't necessarily bad. He was on a road, and could make good time once clear of any snow. If you're motivated enough you can cover 20 or 30 miles or more in a day. It sounds as if he got hypothermic, his brain shut down, and he wandered off into the woods.

this is why I keep a knapsack with some food, a shovel, and warm clothes in my car.

Elizabeth said...

Yes, he made a bad decision. I imagine by the time he it, with he and his wife having gone without food for several days, he wasn't thinking clearly. But he was probably thinking that he had to act to save his children, and that is honorable and brave of him, no matter how misguided.

HaloJonesFan said...

CNN really needs to get on the ball with its copyediting. Other than the first paragraph, the story is still the same copy that they'd been using when the guy was assumed to still be alive!

Elizabeth said...

That should be "by the time he made it"; sorry.

Monkey Faced Liberal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Art said...

I got caught on a similar logging road just west of Glacier National park years ago. It looks great on a map.
(fortunately this was in summer) We kept going, the road got worse and worse.
We finally found a house...stopped to ask, "is this the road to (some such place)?" The resident said, "Yep, just a couple of mile ahead."
I'm sure that as he closed the door and walked away, he added, "Yeh, that state highway map suckered another tourist."

Ernst Blofeld said...

He'd also been there several days. As it happens the car was found by a helicopter hired by the family, so it's not clear that search parties would have found them before they died. 20 miles of walking on a gravel road isn't that unreasonable, particuarly if you're not sure anyone is searching for you or knows where you are; they didn't tell anyone they were driving over that road.

Molon_Labe_Lamp said...

Very heartbreaking. I saw Kim on Cnet a few times and seemed like a good guy.

It's unclear why James Kim did not backtrack on the road they were stranded on. I had read they were 16 miles from a main road. By walking in the tracks of his car he should've been able to cover 16 miles inside 24 hours. I'll be interested in learning the details as this is relevant to the "I Shouldn't be Alive" post.

As is almost always the case in these stories, its the shortuct that kills you.

Prayers go out to Mrs. Kim and their two daughters.

reader_iam said...

Really, really sad. I was so hopeful, once Mrs. Kim and the girls were found. We, too, started following him back in TechTV days.

An amazing part of this story is that two things from the opposite side of the spectrum--high tech and low tech--appear to have been critical for at least Mrs. Kim and the girls surviving. Specifically: A cell phone, which while it didn't work while they were stuck, the last call from which enabled the plotting of a map to determine the area in which they were likely to be found; and the fact that Mrs. Kim was nursing and therefore could keep her children alive for all that time.

Absent those elements, you have to wonder if this story might have ended even more tragically.

Anonymous said...

Here in Oregon we have been obsessed with this story. The outcome is heartbreaking. It is easy at this point to blame the victim, but I believe after waiting with the car for a week, leaving on foot seemed a last ditch effort to find help. Desperation will do that. I have also been on that road. The area is unmarked and very confusing and the maps don't really indicate just how poor the conditions are.

Sad. Terribly, terribly sad.

Smilin' Jack said...

I prefer to regard his decision to set out for help as heroic rather than misguided or desperate. He probably calculated that by leaving the car he diminished his own chances of survival, but increased those of his family. If he stays with the car, they survive only if they are found, but if he goes for help, they survive if they are found or if he reaches help.

Truly said...

Such a sad story--I actually had heard about the Kims through the wife's boutique (Doe) and the design*sponge website. They've always been strong supporters of independent artists and craftspeople. I had so hoped they would all be saved.

Best wishes for the family--especially the baby who won't get to know her father.

Pogo said...

How tragic for all involved. A simple mistake, then ensnared by nature's whim.

I'd count Mr. Kim as heroic as well, as should his children, for no greater sacrifice can a father make.

It's one of those awful Auden moments where a stranger's death calls to mind those from your past; "Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,..."

Cedarford said...

A shame. A rare enough incident that it is hard to convince people to plan for given the low odds they will end up in the trouble the Kim family did. I remember a woman was stuck in an overgrown Florida ditch for 2 1/2 weeks a few years back, so snow and high mountains aren't the only places...and I'm sure some handicapped person died stuck in their own garage somewhere...sometime.

Some good pointers for those of us who travel in the boonies.

1. Always leave itinerary with friends or family on travel of long distance or when going out in the boonies or overseas. Say when you'll check in.

2. Purchase a survival kit for each car. They take up less space than a tire, can be stashed under seats if not the trunk. Adequate for as many people as are riding (some kits only are for 2 people).

3. A change of clothes adequate for a harsh environment if the car dies and you are stuck. Just as good if you are hiking to a house 3 miles away after sliding into a ditch and all you have for 2 feet of snow is a business suit and high-heels.

4. Add a compass, means to start a fire, and a cell phone..in more cases than not, the cell phone will work at the scene of stranding or as you move out. In real boonie areas, carry a gun for signaling or protection.

5. Simple strategy - stay with the vehicle if possible. If that is no longer an option, backtrack. Backtrack. Always backtrack to follow known ground or tracks laid by you in the process of getting lost or stuck rather than venture into unknown territory...no matter what the map says that right over the next two mountains or so and the swamp the map neglects to detail...that there is a shorter journey as the crow flies to help...

It is a shame about Mr. Kim. He did what he had to do. A desperate shot...plenty of times people who footed it out saved others. Plenty of times people that decide to stay put no matter what die and are found all together next spring when the snows melt.
States still need to work on better signs to warn non-locals that they are taking certain backcountry roads not maintained or plowed and it could be a real bad idea.

cokaygne said...

Smilin' Jack has it right. Mr. Kim's choice of action seems foolish given the dangers of walking in snow, but in fact he sacrificed himself to increase his family's chances of survival. Is there a better demonstration of familial love than this?

The mapmakers and perhaps DOT officials have some 'splainin' to do. The OR DOT maps show the road as closed in winter, but Rand mcNally maps do not. Did the Kims find the road on one of those cheesy GPS maps? Did the state post signs at the beginning of the road indicating that it is not maintained in winter?

Folks, since 9/11 and Katrina and now this, we have to think more and more about being prepared mentally, physically, and logistically to protect our families and fend for ourselves.

Anthony said...

One of the local news stations up here in Seattle reported that someone had told them not to go that route and that it was marked as such. The latter bit might have been referring to the map.

I can see going for help after several days. Maybe he thought a short cut would get him to said help faster than simply backtracking. Plus, I think they'd had heavy snows during that time, so the road might have been less passable than the trees for that reason.

Ernst Blofeld said...

The territory there is straight up and down hills with brush and trees. No one in their right mind would go off the road, which makes me think he was hypothermic.

Anthony said...

They mentioned that, too, that at a certain point you think you're really hot when in fact you're freezing and you might start taking your clothes off. That seems odd if what they say about the clothing being neatly laid out is true.

Velobiff said...

Nice to see so many sympathetic folks.
As an old mountain dweller I'd just add, a big decorative candle will warm the car and melt snow for several days if used judicially, packets of semi dry dog food stached with the spare tire will sustain life for a long time and nobody will be tempted to eat them except in emergency.
I feel so badly for this guy, he did the best he could with the skills he had. I'd be lost in his world as he was in mine. I hope his family and friends always remember he did the very best he could.

Joe Baby said...

There's a line in the book "Patriot Games" where Jack Ryan is telling Lord Holmes that under the difficult circumstances they were in, Holmes did exactly what he should have -- he protected his family.

No easy choices, aye?

My mind can't yet fathom what should have been, what action was wrong, or what road should have been taken.

I can't blame Mr. Kim for anything. Indeed, the courage in telling the family to stay in the car as he took that first step for help...wow. But he did his job -- his family made it out.

Zeb Quinn said...

While I haven't been on this road, I am familiar with the area and I know about it. It has a reputation. This has happened on that road more than once before. Back in the 90s a travelling salesman in a pickup truck made a decision very similar to what the Kims made, to use that "shortcut" to Gold Beach in the dead of winter. They found his body in the Spring, still in his truck, starved to death. So James Kim's decision to leave the car and to hike out for help wasn't a bad one.

Andrew Shimmin said...

I don't know whether it was smart or dumb to leave the car, but I expect most men would rather leave the car, with some hope of bring back help, than sit and watch their children die. The cost/benefit analysis is more complicated than simple probability of living.

Such a nightmare.

altoids1306 said...

It's easy for us armchair generals to clinically dissect the situation, but this guy was in a car with his family for nine days. He would have heard his children crying in hunger for a few days, before they became exhausted, quiet and listless. He would have heard her wife's voice become weaker and softer. He would have felt their flesh become cooler to the touch. The car would have slowly filled with the odor of humans staying in one place for too long.

In that situation, both the body and the mind would demand action. Certainly, the best course of action would have been to create high-contrast markers on the ground or create a column of black smoke, by burning a tire. But reasoned logic cannot fight our genetically programmed response to fight or flight, the quiet whispers of our ancient forebearers.

A lesser man might have looked across the desolate expanse, decide to stay and survive, true. But there is something commendable about putting yourself at risk, to increase, if only slightly, another's chance to live. Heroics might not be effective, or even marginally productive - but they are virtuous nonetheless.

It is an indictment of our society, not of Mr. Kim, that we shake our heads sadly and cluck at his mistakes.

(I hadn't known about the story until read Althouse, but it got to me. Sorry for the poetics.)

Ernst Blofeld said...

[url]http://tinyurl.com/u7fpb[/url] shows a map of the area he was in.

It looks like he followed the road down to the creek in the drainage he was in, then instead of following the road uphill on the other side of the drainage, chose to follow the creek down. I hauled out my topo map of the area and it looks like the main road is up around 3,000 feet. Maybe he thought he could get out of the snow by following the creek down, or remembered that old saw about going downstream to civilization. But the road more or less follows the contour line, only a few hundred feet of elevation change. In fact it looks like the "main' road and the road he was on, Galice Creek, are on opposite sides of the ridge, each on the military crest about a kilometer apart.

He managed to make it a long ways downstream cross country.

I doubt if the Black Bar Lodge shown on the PDF was on his map. It's not on my fairly detailed topo map from DeLorme.