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The death of James Kim

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The death of James Kim

Postby Trekker » Wed Dec 06, 2006 9:26 pm

No doubt most of you have heard about the unfortunate death of James Kim, who was stranded with his wife and two children in the Oregon wilderness, went for help, and died, most probably of exposure, while thankfully his wife and children were found alive. It occurs to me that those of us who have experience in dealing with the elements and are aware of the dangers inherent in these type of situations have a responsibility to pass on this information and knowledge to those who might not be aware of the risks of traveling in such inclement conditions, and, indeed, in any situation that may take a person far from help should an emergency arise. I will certainly do as much as I possibly can to make any friends and family, or for that matter, any acquaintances aware of the risks, and pass on any knowledge I may have, in order to better prepare them for any trip they may undertake in order to prevent such a tragedy from happening. I know that many of us have friends and family that live in areas where just this sort of thing could happen, and I would encourage everyone who knows someone who may possibly be exposed to this kind of situation to impart your knowledge and wisdom to them, even if not asked. The chances are, if someone had been able to talk to James Kim before he made his fateful trip about what risks to prepare for, he would be alive today and with his family.



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Postby SSSdave » Wed Dec 06, 2006 11:42 pm

Every time a serious winter storm hits the Sierra one can count on a television crew up on Interstate 80 interviewing some fool stuck beside the road because they don't have tire chains. And of course they are just wearing shorts as they are on their way to Reno to gamble. No sleeping bag, winter coat, water, extra clothing, lighter, or map in the car. But they will have beer and junk food.

The main mistake James Kim made was his decision to go down into the stream canyon instead of staying atop the ridgetop road. Since he was wearing sneakers, that may have been because they became wet and then very cold. Since he was just 15 miles up the road from where they turned off the main highway at a small town, he should have just walked backed to the town along the narrow paved road he drove up. Such lower elevation coastal mountain canyons are often very difficult travel with steep rock walled narrows with dense trees and brush. They found his body near the stream a half mile above the Rogue confluence where the steep canyon chokes making further downcanyon movement impossible. He likely died from hypothermia. In cold weather a wise person avoids canyon bottoms and ridgetops for making a night shelter because that is where the coldest air sumps down a drainage at night. One ought to climb up a few hundred feet above the bottom and find a shelter beneath dense large trees where any rain or snow did not wet the understory. ...David
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Postby Snow Nymph » Thu Dec 07, 2006 9:01 am

His name is on the very top of the webshots page this morning, with links:


"In memoriam: James Kim, CNET senior editor, 1971 - 2006"
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison


http://snownymph.smugmug.com/
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Postby ifernau » Thu Dec 07, 2006 6:43 pm

I was following the story as well and my thoughts are with his family he wanted to save.
I was wondering myself why he did not follow the road he came on, maybe he thought he had a straight shot down.....who knows. Staying in the car would have been best. I know all he wanted to do is getting help for his loved ones.

I believe it was in 2005, when a winter storm hit Round Valley and again one person left the car for help and died, the other one lived.

I always travel alone and have listend to others advise. I have extra blankets, clothing, food and water, but I must say no matches, thank you Dave I need to fix that!
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Postby SSSdave » Thu Dec 07, 2006 7:24 pm

This truncated news video is a good source of information:

http://www.ktvu.com/video/10485437/index.html

Days ago the report was the car was near Bear Camp Road which is starts out as Galice Road. That they had to back down from Bear Camp Road which was too narrow and turn around on a spur road where they stopped. Actually that was incorrect. While on Bear Camp Road, snow fell more heavily making visibility difficult. At an intersection they unfortunately made a wrong turn off BCR onto a spur road. Not at all hard to do on snow covered secondary roads. This Mapquest map shows that area. If one moves the map west a bit and then zooms in, one will see the names of both these roads and a primitvie spur road, BLM-34-8-36.

http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?co ... +Map#north

This is another pdf map of the area. This area is the bend in Rogue just downstream of Black Bar above P in Peavine

http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkkIcwHhF_ ... NGODUyXzky

Apparently they drove down that spur road several miles. A statement in the video said 15 miles though that does not make sense as there is not that much total distance in the spur road unless it was meant to mean from Galice. If they had reached the 4WD trail that descends to Black Bar on the Rogue River, then they would be a bit more than a mile air distance from where Kim's body was found a half-mile upstream on Big Windy Creek from the Rogue confluence. Report stated he was found lying on his back fully clothed wearing a daypack with small items in the too shallow to drown creek. Autopsy cause of death was hypothermia. Apparently he had hiked 2 or 3 miles back up road BLM-34-8-36 the way he came then decided to drop into the creek canyon. Not sure how that would yield the reported 8 miles or so that he had hiked as it appears less.

As to why he hiked down into the creek canyon, the video reported he had studied an Oregon map they had and he had thought they were just 4 miles from Galice instead of the 15 miles actual. Thus he thought that town was just below in the canyon where it met the Rogue. Considering they had traveled about four times that distance from Galice on Galice Road, Bear Creek Road, and BLM-34-8-36, that unreality might be the result of extreme stresses of driving in the blinding snow. Or maybe he thought they had traveled a winding indirect route that ended up not being far air distance from Galice. In any case not staying on the road was a fatal mistake. I storm ski every year in the Sierra which often requires driving to resorts in the midst of storms. Difficult enough during the day but virtually impossible at times at night when one's headlights just reflect on the heavy snow coming down in front of a vehicle. ...David
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Postby rightstar76 » Fri Dec 08, 2006 3:33 am

This is an extremely tragic event. No doubt it will go down in the annals of survival stories involving people making wrong turns in their cars in the snow like the Stolpa's (NV - 1993), McIntire's (OR - 1973), Stivers' (OR - 2006), and DeWitt Finley (OR - 1994/5), as well as a whole host of others. The Kims' were very fortunate that they had the financial resources to hire a fleet of helicopters; Kati and the children were saved because of this. Also, while money made little difference to James' survival, it did bring closure to his family through the retrieval of his body; without the helicopters, it is highly unlikely that James' body would have been found, and his family would have been haunted by what might have happened to him. What saddens me the most, however, is the aftermath, especially how the public is being asked to donate funds. At first, I thought the funds were for charitable causes in James' name. It turned out they were requested in part to pay for the children's future college education and to reimburse the family for the money that was paid to the helicopter pilots. What makes the request unusual is the fact that the Kims' are well-to-do. In the time that the Kims made their wrong turn and waited for rescue, other families, many quite poor, lost members for a variety of reasons. These families never made it to the front page and most could use money right now. One family couldn't even afford the funeral for their baby after she fell from the window of their tenement building. Their story was a blip on the nightly newscast, and quickly forgotten.

Given that people worldwide are willing to contribute financially in James' name, I hope that his family will use the occasion to raise money for noble causes, perhaps even set up a charitable fund in his name. Maybe his family will advocate for better signs and gates on roads like Bear Camp, the kind that would have prevented the Kims' from driving on the road in the first place. They could also start a public awareness campaign through Triple AAA and other organizations about winter safety and driving. Were his family to use this tragedy to instigate change for social good, I think that James would be delighted to see that his final walk to the Rogue River was not done in vain!
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Postby SSSdave » Fri Dec 08, 2006 11:35 am

One thing several people on this and other forums as well as the media have expressed on this survival story is why wasn't the road they took gated closed or signed. I think most of such comments are coming from those that are not familiar with our western lower elevation rural mountain areas and instead are thinking in terms of larger highways they travel in snowy mountainous areas. Reality is even at mountain areas in frequent snowy regions, there are many secondary roads, especially leading to homes and ranches that are almost never so gated, signed as to danger, or even when so are done well after highway crews deal with primary roads. For instance during most snowstorms there are many roads in the city of South Lake Tahoe's hilly areas that one ought to be very careful driving in any storm that locals know all too well is their responsibility.

Our highway crews generally deal with higher elevation primary road areas. Often such areas are in national forests with few areas of towns or private residences. When a low elevation snow level storm hits dropping snow levels below the national forest areas into areas of private residences and ranches, those areas usually are left to skeleton highway crews and law enforcement to deal with road closures. That was the case in the narrow secondary paved road from Galice the Kim's took. People live up those roads so they don't gate them but rather post signs of potential dangers. People living in such areas expect that sometimes such storms will block roads for days until local snow dozers have a chance to get to them. Reports were that a few such signs were in fact on the road the Kim's took. I'm guessing he wasn't too familiar with how dangerous night driving in snow could be and when such started, he was too slow to immediately turn back.

As a frequent skier, one very valuable item custom bolted to the outside of my old Subaru is one of those cheap digital thermometers with a thin cable leading to a remote sensor. Between 35F and 28F there are a number of quite predictable storm and road surface conditions for every degree drop in temperature one will encounter pretty much like clockwork. Between 33F and 37F one will almost always encounter sleet that doesn't stick to the road surface. That gives one a chance to turn around while it is easy to do. Once the temperature reads 31F the road surface readily piles up snow and worse it tends to be even more slippery than later when the snow is a few inches deep because the first layer that freezes is usually melted snow that can turn to ice. ...David
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Postby CinnamonGirl » Fri Dec 08, 2006 3:43 pm

In May 2005 while mountain biking in Utah outside Zion NP in 30 degree weather, one guy broke his leg. It took 3 hours for rescue to come. It had been raining/hailing of and on all day and the downed wood was wet. How do you start a fire to save lives with wet wood? Our guide had cotton balls soaked with vaseline in a zip-lock bag in his emergency kit.
Maybe you all know about this, but i learned a very valuable lesson that day. Once we got the cotton balls going we were able to set kindling on fire and start a fire that kept the inured guy and others from going into hypothermia.

So sorry about Mr. Kim.
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Postby mountaineer » Fri Dec 08, 2006 5:43 pm

One thing several people on this and other forums as well as the media have expressed on this survival story is why wasn't the road they took gated closed or signed.


It was signed. According to his wife, they drove past several signs that said "This road may be closed due to snow". I don't believe in gating roads, etc. It cuts off access for responsible people, people taht know what they are getting into and are prepared for it.
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Postby Trekker » Fri Dec 08, 2006 7:34 pm

This is from today:

Authorities: Kims took road opened by vandal
James Kim and his family were able to drive down a remote logging road because a vandal had cut open a locked metal gate, authorities say. The family got stranded on the normally closed road, and Kim died of exposure after setting out on foot to find help.



I'm gratified to note that this tragedy has opened a lot of discussion on what should have been done and how to prepare for a trip such as this and how to survive in similar circumstances. Articles on CNN and MSN, etc. will, I hope, enlighten people so that there is less of a chance that something like this happens. Hopefully that will also be a legacy of James Kim.
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Postby mountaineer » Fri Dec 08, 2006 7:45 pm

Well that sucks! My paper today said they drove past signs that said the road could be closed by snow. There is ALWAYS something else to the story.:(
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Postby SteveB » Sat Dec 09, 2006 1:10 am

I remember him from his TechTV days, and was stunned to hear of the situation when the news finally reached lonely ol' Nevada. I'm quite relieved his wife and children were rescued, and I've already offered my prayers to James. A very good man, and he will definately be missed.
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