The Kim family -- parents James and Kati and children Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months -- disappeared Nov. 25, 2006, as they drove to Gold Beach from Merlin, just north of Grants Pass off Interstate 5. Kati Kim, 30, and her daughters were found Dec. 4 with the car after being stuck in the snow for nine days with few supplies. James Kim, 35, was found dead two days later in a creek. He had walked more than 16 miles in the cold and snow in a futile effort to get help. The Oregonian covered the Kim family's tragic trip for months. Below are the key stories.
On the road, a family vanishes: Southern Oregon is the focus of a search for a couple and their children, missing after a Portland stop
Saturday, Dec. 2, 2006
By David Austin and Mark Larabee
Two weeks ago, James and Kati Kim of San Francisco loaded their two children into the car and drove to the Northwest for Thanksgiving.
They spent the holiday with family in Seattle and then headed to Portland to visit friends. Their next stop was to be a hotel in Gold Beach on the Southern Oregon Coast before returning home.
They never made it. No one has heard from the Kims for a week.
On Friday, police from more than a half-dozen agencies searched along highways and rural roads between Salem and Gold Beach -- any possible route the family may have taken. The Oregon Air National Guard sent a Black Hawk helicopter to conduct an air search near Agness on the Rogue River, and Josephine and Coos County sheriff's deputies patrolled remote roads to see whether they could find a trace of the family.
Oregon State Police and the Curry County Sheriff's Office are talking with the San Francisco Police Department about what to do next. Because no one knows where the family might be, there is no single agency in charge, which created some confusion Friday about where to focus the investigation.
"Everyone from Salem to the southern part of the state should be on alert," said Lt. Dennis Dinsmore of the Curry County Sheriff's Office. "We're going as far as we can go and making sure our people stay safe at the same time."
East of Gold Beach on Friday, Josephine and Coos County deputies used four-wheel-drive vehicles and a Sno-Cat to search without luck. The core of their search was along Bear Camp Road, which was covered with snow and ice at higher elevations. They also searched along Forest Service roads into the Agness Pass area and into Eden Valley past Mount Bolivar.The Oregonian Coverage of the Kim family tragedy won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. Read all of The Oregonian's Pulitzer-winning work.Police said family and friends of the Kims paid for private helicopters to help search the rugged terrain along Oregon highways 38, 42 and 126 between Interstate 5 and the coast.
No significant leads
But so far, with no significant leads on the family's whereabouts, police are stymied.
"There's not a lot we can do right now other than get the word out because there is no real specific point of focus," said Lt. Gregg Hastings, an Oregon State Police spokesman. "We're going to have our troopers drive some of the routes they might have taken to Gold Beach, but we're hoping for more thorough tips from the public if anyone's seen them."
Police said that the Kims' cell phones and credit cards have not been used since Nov. 25.
James Kim, 35, is a senior editor at CNET, an Internet media company that provides reviews and other services about technology. Kati Kim, 30, is a 1997 graduate of the University of Oregon who majored in French. She oversees the two family-owned stores in San Francisco.
The couple is traveling with their daughters, 4-year-old Penelope and 7-month-old Sabine. Police said the Kims were driving a 2005 silver Saab station wagon with a personalized California license plate DOESF.
James Kim's sister, Eva Kim of San Francisco, flew to Crescent City, Calif., on Friday with her husband and planned to drive north to Gold Beach. She said they plan to meet up with her parents who were traveling from Los Angeles.
"We're going to drive slowly along Highway 38 and see if there's anything we can find," Eva Kim said. "We have not been reassured by the Oregon police that they are doing an exhaustive search, so we're doing it ourselves."
Route in question
Authorities bristled at the notion they're not doing enough.
Dinsmore of Curry County said his discussions with family members have been cordial. "When our experienced mountain-trained deputies say they have searched and can't go any further, then we pull out," he said. "They know what they're doing."
Part of the problem is that no one knew what route the Kims were taking from Portland to Gold Beach. Dinsmore said there are a number of routes, and some of them that reach 4,000 feet elevation in Curry County can be treacherous. With dips and crests along the winding roads, it would be easy for someone to lose control and drive off the shoulder, police said.
The Kims left the Bay Area on Nov. 17, driving to Seattle to visit James Kim's uncle and aunt for Thanksgiving.
"We talked about the kids and the family," said Clint Youn. "It was a good visit. Everything seemed perfectly all right."
The Kims left Seattle the day after Thanksgiving for Portland, where they visited friends. A week ago, they had brunch with Ryan Lee. Lee said they spent about 90 minutes together before the family left to go shopping in Northwest Portland before heading to Gold Beach, where they had reservations at Tu Tu Tun Lodge.
They never arrived at the lodge, and a woman who was house-sitting for the couple called police Wednesday to file a missing persons report.
Brandy Hatch of Astoria, a friend who first met the Kims while working in the high-tech field in San Francisco, said it is out of character for the couple to not stay in touch.
"They would not just drive off without telling someone," she said. "James checked in with work every day whether he was going to be there or not."
Hatch, an administrative assistant for KMUN radio, said she plans to rent a car Saturday and drive south on U.S. 101, while other friends scour the routes from Portland to Gold Beach.
"I know they would do the same thing for me," she said, fighting back tears. "I know that they would drop anything to help a friend."
Family members are worried. But they're hopeful they will find their loved ones.
"We did not sleep well last night," Youn said. "I think everything is all right. I hope that everything is going to be OK. That's what I want."
Searchers for family comb 3 routes: A plane and helicopters bolster ground efforts to find the four, who were heading to Gold Beach
Monday, Dec. 4, 2006
By David R. Anderson
GRANTS PASS -- The Oregon State Police lieutenant coordinating the search for a Northern California family missing for a week in Southern Oregon said Sunday that he believed the family is smart enough to be alive and vowed to continue the search efforts.View full size Jackson County SWAT team members prepare to search for James Kim. They are waiting to be lifted by a helicopter down into the Big Windy Creek. The Oregonian
But after an intense day of searching with nearly 80 people on the ground and several aircraft overhead, there were no signs of James and Kati Kim and their two young children.
"Come sunup tomorrow, we need to hit this thing again hard," Lt. Rian Powers said. "If it was my family, I'd want it to continue until they were found."
The search focused on three possible routes the family might have taken from Roseburg to Gold Beach, including roads from Roseburg, Glendale and Grants Pass.
The Kims were last seen at a Denny's restaurant in Roseburg about 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25, and were scheduled to arrive at the Tu Tu Tun Lodge in Gold Beach that night.
The couple is traveling with their daughters, Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months. Police said the Kims were driving a 2005 silver Saab station wagon with a personalized California license plate DOESF.
Searchers from five counties were using four-wheel drive vehicles, Sno-cats and snowmobiles Sunday. In addition, the family hired several private helicopters. There was also a helicopter from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office and a state police plane involved.
Still, searchers found no tracks or other clues to the family's whereabouts, although authorities have received several leads from a telephone tip line that they were investigating. However, Powers would not elaborate on the specifics of those tips.
Family and friends continued to canvass the area with fliers.
"There's been no news, unfortunately," said Jason Zemlicka, a close friend of James Kim. "We're still hoping something will turn up."
Powers said the family was reacting the way any other family would.
"They're nervous, they're apprehensive, they're scared," he said.
AP Photo/Grants Pass Daily Courier, Jim KroisKati Kim holds her 7-month-old daughter, Sabine, in a rescue helicopter after the two, along with 4-year-old Penelope Kim, were rescued from a remote area of Southern Oregon on Dec. 4, 2006.
Search for father intensifies: With James Kim's family safe, hundreds look in the Southern Oregon mountains for the Californian
Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2006
By David R. Anderson, Mark Larabee and Wade Nkrumah
GRANTS PASS -- Hundreds of searchers looked frantically today for a missing California father who left his family four days ago stuck on a snowy mountain road.
A private rescue helicopter Monday plucked Kati Kim, 30, and her two young daughters off a spur road below Bear Camp Road 30 miles west of Grants Pass. Kim and her husband, James, 35, had been stranded for nine days while trying to drive to Gold Beach on the Oregon Coast.
Kati Kim, and her two daughters were in good condition at Three Rivers Community Hospital in Grants Pass.
The discovery narrowed the search for James Kim, who left for help Saturday and spent his third night alone in below-freezing temperatures in a little traveled 3,500-foot mountain pass of the Siskiyou National Forest.
Their Saab station wagon got stuck in snow on a side road Nov. 25 about 30 miles west of Grants Pass as the vacationing family tried to find a way from Interstate 5 to Gold Beach.
The family kept warm during freezing nights by running the car engine. When the gas tank went dry, they burned the car's tires. Searchers said the family had little food and the mother nursed her daughters.View full size Kati Kim holds her daughter, seven-month-old Sabine, in the back of a helicopter after they and her other daughter, 4-year-old Penelope, were rescued from a remote area of southern Oregon. AP Photo/Grants Pass Daily Courier, Jim Krois
Authorities said James Kim, 35, left his family at 7:45 a.m. Saturday to seek help and told his wife that if he didn't find anyone by 1 p.m. he would come back. He never returned.
At 1:45 p.m. Monday, a family-chartered helicopter spotted Kati Kim waving an umbrella. The pilot landed and picked up the mother and her daughters, Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months.
"They're in remarkable shape for being nine days in the wilderness," said Josephine County Undersheriff Brian Anderson.
Kati Kim told a family friend, Ryan Lee of Portland, that the family was seeking a shortcut from I-5 to the coast. But the situation soon got out of control.
At first it was only raining, Kim told Lee, but snow began falling as they got higher in the mountains. The road was bad, and at one point James and Kati Kim had to get out to remove rocks from the road. They tried to back down the road, but could not, and then took the spur road to try to get to a lower elevation and out of the snow zone.
Once they were out of the snow and in the rain, Kim told Lee, they parked for the night and kept the motor running to use the header.
"They thought they could spend the night and somebody would find them in the morning," Lee told the San Francisco Chronicle. "But then, when they woke up it was snowing quite heavily. They were stuck."
Monday, there was no sign of James Kim except for a set of footprints heading uphill toward Bear Camp Road, the main road through the area, and down a steep embankment toward Big Windy Creek.
Oregon State Police Lt. Doug Ladd said that there was "a very reasonable chance" that Kim is alive and that the family said he had some outdoor experience.
Authorities threw everything they could into the search for James Kim. Two Jackson County sheriff's deputies tracked his footprints in the snow. An Oregon National Guard helicopter with heat-sensing equipment flew overhead and searchers in Sno-Cats drove the roads.
Horseback teams, dog handlers and river rescuers headed out at daybreak today.
"We will be out there all night and work 24/7 until we find him," said Mike Winters, Jackson County sheriff.
Kim is wearing blue jeans, a sweater, a light jacket and tennis shoes. He's carrying two cigarette lighters, and his wife thinks he may have taken a camera strobe with him, Anderson said.
The Kims left San Francisco Nov. 17, driving to Seattle to visit relatives for Thanksgiving. The day after Thanksgiving the Kims drove to Portland, where they visited friends, then on Nov. 25 headed south on Interstate 5. They had reservations that night at the Tu Tu Tun Lodge along the Rogue River east of Gold Beach but never arrived.
A woman who was housesitting for the couple called police Wednesday to report they were missing.
On Friday, family and police from more than six agencies started their air-and-ground search along four highways and dozens of rural roads between Interstate 5 and Gold Beach. The four main routes also intersect with dozens of county and Forest Service roads, some of them reaching 4,000 feet elevation.
Anderson said Bear Camp Road is only passable in warm weather. He said they rescue people every winter from the road.
"It's not a good way to go in winter," he said. "You can't make it."
Last Friday, Curry County deputies from the west and Josephine County deputies from the east searched Bear Camp Road but had trouble getting their Sno-Cats down side roads, Hastings said.
On Monday, 100 searchers --including Carson Logging helicopters rented by Kim's family --focused their search west of I-5 after authorities determined a family cell phone triggered two pings on a tower on Wolf Peak about 1:30 a.m. Nov. 26, the morning after the family was last seen.
"It was critical," Anderson said of the signal.
Support on CNET
James Kim is a senior editor at CNET, an Internet media company that provides reviews and other services about technology. Kati Kim is a 1997 graduate of the University of Oregon and oversees the two family-owned stores in San Francisco.
Friends and strangers have posted hundreds of messages on CNET.com, offering support and prayers for the Kim family. Lindsey Turrentine, executive editor for mobile reviews at CNET.com, said there was a mix relief and anxiety about the news that Kati Kim and the girls were found but that James Kim still was missing.
"We're obviously really happy and excited that Kati and the kids are found," Turrentine said. "We are taking that as a good sign and we're cautiously optimistic about James. And we're just waiting to hear the news.
"We're waiting for any news, and we're looking forward to good news."
Monday evening, Kati Kim's parents, Phil and Sandra Fleming, were en route from Gallup, N.M., to Albuquerque to be interviewed on "Larry King Live." Sandra Fleming said her daughter and James Kim "have absolutely been heroes, keeping themselves safe and doing the right thing and being resourceful."
Yet, she said, the family can't relax until James Kim is found.
"We thank everybody who's out there that's trying to help us, but we are still absolutely desperate to find our James."
Hospital officials said Monday night that all three were in good condition but that Sabine Kim was kept overnight for observation. Kati Kim and Penelope stayed in the hospital to be with her.
Chevy Fleming, Kati Kim's younger brother and only sibling, said he talked to his sister early Monday evening, and that she's "doing well, and she's in good spirits."
"Her children are just fine," he said. "They didn't even need medical attention. Apparently, she nursed them the whole time. She was hungry and cold, but other than that, she was fine."
Clues push search for missing dad: A helicopter with night vision continues the search in the dark after pants belonging to James Kim are found
Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006
By Peter Sleeth, David R. Anderson and David Austin
GRANTS PASS -- Searchers combing a cold, rugged canyon for a San Francisco father missing for 11 days found a pair of his pants Tuesday and planned to lower a rescuer into a chasm today to examine something else he may have left behind.
Although they wouldn't elaborate on the item, search officials and family hoped both discoveries will lead them to James Kim, a 35-year-old high tech editor who left his stranded family four days earlier to seek help. But other rescue experts said finding the pants may signal that Kim was in the late stages of fatal hypothermia.View full size Bear Creek Road The Oregonian
Searchers found the pants one mile below a Bureau of Land Management road in the Big Windy Creek drainage, which runs toward the Rogue River. They also found Kim's footprints and scuff marks another mile downstream.
A second item -- possibly more clothing belonging to Kim --was found deep in a chasm but searchers couldn't get to it before dark Tuesday. Searchers also found "other items" that may belong to Kim, Lt. Gregg Hastings of the Oregon State Police said Tuesday night, but were waiting for verification they were his.
"We'll continue searching until we find Mr. Kim," said Josephine County Undersheriff Brian Anderson. "We are operating under the assumption that he is alive. ... This is frustrating. ... We are so close. We are treating the search like we're looking for our own family member. We're not going to give up."
More than 100 ground searchers ended their quest at dark Tuesday because of the rugged terrain. An Oregon Air National Guard helicopter equipped with night-vision and heat-sensing equipment continued flying a five-mile stretch of the drainage 30 miles west of Grants Pass.
James and Kati Kim with their two daughters, 4-year-old Penelope and 7-month-old Sabine, had been missing since Nov. 25 after driving south from Portland to visit the southern Oregon Coast. A helicopter found Kati Kim and the girls Monday waving an umbrella near their stranded car. But James Kim had struck out on foot two days earlier seeking help.
James Kim left the family at 7:45 a.m. Saturday, telling his wife he'd be gone for four hours. He never returned to the car, where the family had burned the vehicle's tires to keep warm after it ran out of gas.
Searchers said Kim hiked three miles back up the BLM road and then -- for what reason they do not know -- walked into the rugged Big Windy Creek drainage. Searchers believe he was wearing at least two pair of pants.
Hastings said the pants could be an indication of Kim trying to mark the path. "I think that would be a smart thing to do," Hastings said.
But some cold-weather experts said the pants are an indication that perhaps Kim was suffering from the late stages of hypothermia.
Dr. Cameron Bangs, one of the state's leading hypothermia experts, said it is common for someone stranded for a long time in cold weather to start "paradoxical undressing."
Bangs said the term refers to how when someone's core temperature drops below 90 degrees, the body's cooling systems begin to fail. The result, Bangs said, is that warm blood moves toward the skin and a person begins to feel hot.
"You become confused and behave in a strange manner," Bangs said. "You feel too warm and you start shedding clothes. It's a bad sign. It's a bad sign that he's been out there for too long without much equipment."
Anderson did not disclose what officials thought the item in the chasm might be.
Kim's family secluded themselves Tuesday but issued a statement expressing gratitude for the search efforts.
"The family wishes to express their deepest, heartfelt gratitude for the tremendous outpouring of love, concern and assistance to find the family," the statement said. "We are overjoyed that Kati, Penelope and Sabine are safe and sound, largely due to James Kim's remarkable efforts to ensure the safety of his family in this desperate situation."
One searcher, a 38-year-old Jackson County sheriff's deputy, was injured in a fall Tuesday and had to be airlifted to a Medford hospital. Anderson said the injuries weren't life-threatening.
Searchers scoured the steep terrain from Monday night until darkness fell Tuesday. Elevations in the area reached to about 3,500 feet and temperatures dipped into the 20s.
Bob Harrison of the Eugene Mountain Rescue was part of the crew that found James Kim's tracks. Working a shift that lasted from 10 p.m. Monday to noon Tuesday, Harrison and four other trackers said the conditions in the canyon were nothing short of treacherous.
"It was very rough going," Harrison said. "Very slow. We didn't go near as far as we thought we could."View full size Rescue workers put down several markers, like this arrow pointing toward Big Windy Creek, to assist them in their search for James Kim. The Oregonian
The crews had to cover lots of steep ground that was littered with downed trees, heavy brush and the occasional sheer-faced cliff that would pop up in front of them. Mostly, crews had to continue crossing and re-crossing Big Windy Creek when obstacles prevented them from getting by.
Even in daylight, the searching conditions were treacherous. Harrison added that the helicopters hovering above couldn't see the search crews who were wearing bright orange vests.
While in the drainage, searchers tried to look under debris to see if they could find James Kim. "Someone who is cold and is going to hole up under protective logs, we look for that sort of thing," Harrison said.
There were about 100 people searching Tuesday, along with three helicopters chartered by Kim's family and one from Josephine County. Two rafts also were launched into the Rogue heading toward Black Bar Lodge.
At nightfall, the Air National Guard copter took to the skies. Anderson said officials planned to monitor the length of the drainage through the night and into this morning near its outlet into the Rogue River for any signs of the missing man.
The Kims were headed to Gold Beach Nov. 25 but missed a main route there and decided to take a shortcut west of Grants Pass, friends and authorities said.
At first it was only raining as they drove up Bear Camp Road but snow began falling as they got higher in the mountains. Kati Kim told a friend Monday that the road was pretty bad and at one point she and her husband had to get out to remove rocks from the road. They soon realized they weren't going to make it over the mountain and decided to drive back to a lower elevation to get out of the snow.
The Kims drove 15 miles down a BLM side road before stopping for the night because they were out of the snow. They parked, leaving the engine running so they could use the heater.
"They thought they could spend the night and somebody would find them in the morning," said Ryan Lee, the Portland friend who talked with Kati Kim after her rescue Monday. "But then, when they woke up, it was snowing quite heavily. They were stuck."
The Kims ran the engine of their 2005 Saab station wagon for three days to power the heater until the car ran out of gas, Hastings said.
For seven days, the parents rationed baby food and crackers for their children, drank melted snow water and tried to keep warm. The adults at first ate berries but then gave them up for fear of getting poisoned, Lee said.
Before long, the car battery had also gone dead. Then they huddled together in the car, burning all their tires to stay warm.
That's when James Kim decided to venture out Saturday to try to find help. At one point after her husband left, Kati Kim ventured away from the car to look for help.
But, weak from hunger, she quickly determined that she was unable to carry both girls and returned to the shelter of the car, according to an account she gave her mother and father, Sandra and Phil Fleming of New Mexico.
Kati Kim nursed both girls throughout the ordeal.
Text messages to Kim family helped narrow search: Using computerized records, cell network employees lead searchers to Kati Kim and her girls
Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006
By Andy Dworkin
A pair of text messages and quick thinking by two Medford men helped rescuers find Kati Kim and her two young daughters on Monday.
The lucky messages, sent to the lost family's cell phone early Nov. 26, created a computerized record at Bend-based Edge Wireless, which provides phone service to parts of Oregon, California, Idaho and Wyoming. That record showed which cell phone tower the family was near, narrowing the search area from a few thousand to a few hundred square miles.
The Kim family -- Kati; her husband, James; and daughters, Penelope and Sabine --took a wrong turn while driving from Roseburg to Gold Beach on Nov. 25. They became stranded on remote, winding Bear Camp Road in Josephine County. James Kim left to seek help on Saturday and remains missing. On Monday, Kati and the girls were spotted by a rescue helicopter flying in a search area defined by the text messages.
Noah Pugsley and Eric Fuqua, two workers at Edge's Medford office, heard about the lost family and knew Edge's cell network covered the region, said Donnie Castleman, the wireless company's president and chief operating officer. The company contacted police, who made a formal request to search Edge's records, as required by company policy, Castleman said.
The Medford men set to work, hoping someone had called the Kims in their time of distress.
Even when we're not jabbering on them, cell phones regularly talk to the nearest relay tower when turned on, in what the industry calls "pings." Those pings tell cellular networks where a phone is, so they know to deliver a call to Portland, Oregon, or Portland, Maine. The same technology tells your cell phone what time zone you're in when you fly across country. But no one records those pings: There's no reason to log old phone locations, and cell companies get millions a day.
Cell companies do log incoming signals for billing purposes, though. And Edge's records showed two brief text messages hit the Kims' phone around 1:45 a.m. Nov. 26, Castleman said. That record showed the closest site tower, which relayed the message, sat in Wolf Creek.
The cell tower has a service radius of about 21 miles, Castleman said. And that circle of coverage is divided into three sectors. So the Edge workers could tell police that the family was in a wedge-shaped chunk of ground west of Interstate 5. The search narrowed to roads in that area. Police said the information was a key to finding Kati Kim and her daughters.
So why didn't the family call out? The wilderness where the family was lost "doesn't really have a strong signal," Edge spokeswoman Darla Pomeroy said. In fact, Edge delivered a mobile cell site to the area on Monday so rescuers could better communicate. At some point, the family lucked into a spot with service and the text messages flowed through, leaving their computerized trail.
Cell phones have similarly helped trace missing people in several other rescues, said Joe Farren, a spokesman for the trade group CTIA - The Wireless Association. In fact, he said, all phones are now equipped with GPS technology that can pinpoint people within several feet if they call 9-1-1 or sign up for "location-based services" that use GPS. The 220 million U.S. residents with cell phones also make more than 240,000 calls to 9-1-1 each day, Farren said.
"It's an incredible safety tool," he said.
Kim family not first party to go missing on Bear Camp Road: The seemingly straight link between Gold Beach and Grants Pass is confusing, difficult
Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006
By Matthew Preusch
On paper, Bear Camp Road looks like a straight shot across the Coast Range, but the road between Gold Beach and Grants Pass is a winding cliffhanger in the best conditions and impassable once snow hits the higher elevations.
That's information that James and Kati Kim of San Francisco probably didn't have when they traveled up the national forest road 12 days ago and became stranded in the snowy mountains.
"There's a history of people who have tried to make that shortcut" -- and failed, said Jared Castle, a state transportation spokesman based in Roseburg.View full size A Jackson County SWAT member is flown by helicopter to the site where the body of James Kim was found Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006, in the Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon. The Oregonian
Heading west out of Merlin, the single-lane road passes through U.S. Bureau of Land Management forests, then winds over and along steep ridges in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, reaching elevations over 4,500 feet. Turnouts are scattered along the way, and often sections of the road and shoulders are unpaved or washed out.
In summer, rafters riding the Rogue River's white water use the route to return to Interstate 5, sharing the road with motorcyclists, tourists and even cyclists.
After having dinner in Roseburg on Nov. 25, the Kims intended to follow Oregon 42 west to Coos Bay on their way to a resort near Gold Beach but missed the turn off Interstate 5, authorities said Tuesday.
Instead of backtracking, they looked on a map and saw a direct line from Grants Pass over the mountains to Gold Beach on Bear Camp Road, said Josephine County Undersheriff Brian Anderson.
They ended up traveling about a dozen miles up Bear Camp Road before turning down a BLM road, where they got stuck 15 miles later.
"They've had problems there in the past with people going down that road," said James Roper, lead road engineer for BLM in the area who has been participating in the search. "It's a big wide intersection, and both sides are paved, and sometimes it looks better than the road they're supposed to be on."
To prevent travelers from taking the BLM road, the agency closes it off with a locked gate in winter but somebody had vandalized the gate, leaving it open, Roper said. It's not clear how the Kims decided to get off the freeway and follow the route in the first place.
They had stopped earlier in the day at the Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce and gotten a map, but it was produced by the Oregon Department of Transportation and labels Bear Camp Road in fine print as closed in winter.
They must not have used the ODOT map, said Anderson, the Josephine County undersheriff.
Mark Ottenad, executive director of the Wilsonville chamber, said the Kims were given the ODOT map and a guide to the coast. A map inside the guidebook doesn't show Bear Camp Road. He said the chamber employee suggested Oregon 42 or Oregon 38 as the best options to the coast.
"Our visitor information specialist cautioned them against taking forest roads and to stay on the main highways this time of the year," he said.
Not all commercial or tourist maps offer warnings like the ODOT map. Online, Google's map service suggests that Bear Camp Road is the quickest route from Grants Pass to Gold Beach, while Yahoo and MapQuest advise taking U.S. 199.
It's easy to think that Bear Camp Road is passable year-round if you're not familiar with the area. That's what Doug Gruendell of Seattle thought earlier this year.
On a return trip up I-5 from California last February, Gruendell decided to detour to the coast. "We looked at our Rand McNally road atlas and said, 'There's a road to the ocean, let's take that,' " he said Tuesday.
He ended up having to call a tow truck to pull his four-wheel-drive pickup out of the snow on Bear Camp.
Regardless of the map they were using, as the Kims began the climb up the eastern slopes of the coastal mountains in their Saab station wagon, they should have seen signs warning them of possible snow closures on the road ahead, said Patty Burel, spokeswoman for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The agency maintains Bear Camp Road and posted the signs last month.
There are gates that can close the road off on either end, but the agency leaves them open in winter so people can reach upper elevations for winter activities such as snowmobiling or hunting.
"We don't lock those gates when it snows," she said. "We lock the gate when there is flooding or erosion of the road surface."
Last March, the Stivers family of Ashland spent two weeks snowbound in their motor home after trying to take Bear Camp Road to the coast. They missed a turn before getting on Bear Camp and ended up to the north, lost in the tangle of Forest Service roads.
And in 1995, teenagers found the remains of a man who had starved to death in his pickup after getting lost in the same general area the fall before. He was on a sales trip through Oregon when he decided to take the back roads from the coast through the Siskiyous to Grants Pass.
Hope ends; grieving starts: Hope turns to sorrow; results expected today from an autopsy of James Kim
Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006
By Peter Sleeth and David Austin
GRANTS PASS -- The search for the missing San Francisco father lost in the Southern Oregon woods for 12 days came to an end at 12:03 p.m. Wednesday when his body was spotted at the bottom of a rugged canyon in the Siskiyou National Forest, a half mile from the Rogue River.
Searchers had hoped for a better outcome because of the pattern of clothes James Kim had left in his five-mile scramble down Big Windy Creek, a drainage that flows into the Rogue.
Authorities don't know how or when Kim died but planned an autopsy Wednesday night. The results would be made public today.
"It appears to me that he was highly motivated and he knew what he was doing coming down," an emotional Josephine County Undersheriff Brian Anderson told reporters. "We were having trouble in there. He traveled a long distance. That was some of our frustration. We could never get ahead of him."
The plight of Kim, a 35-year-old senior editor for a high-tech media company in San Francisco, transfixed the country after his wife and two young daughters were found Monday on a narrow road, high above the creek, where they had been stuck in snow for nine days with little food or supplies.
When rescuers reached Kati Kim and the girls --4-year-old Penelope and 7-month-old Sabine --on Monday, they were told that James Kim struck out two days earlier to find help.
James Kim walked five miles back up the Bureau of Land Management road before dropping into the steep and treacherous Big Windy Creek drainage. Searchers have no idea why Kim left the road for the creek, Anderson said. Rescuers tried to reach him Monday and Tuesday but couldn't get far because of the conditions.
Wednesday, searchers waited out a heavy fog that grounded several helicopters. Once the fog lifted, a pilot with Carson Helicopter Services spotted Kim's body in the creek about a half-mile from the Rogue River. Although he had hiked five miles down the creek, his body was only about 11/2 miles in a straight line from the family's car.View full size James and Kati Kim and their daughter. Courtesy of the family
The Carson helicopter returned to a landing zone above the canyon and picked up a Jackson County Swat team member who was lowered on a 200-foot yellow rope into the canyon.
Kim's body was found where the creek is 25 feet wide and lined with sheer cliffs that would have prevented searchers from climbing down to the water.
On Tuesday, a team of searchers in rafts floated the Rogue River to the mouth of Big Windy Creek but couldn't climb up the river's walls.
As the helicopter returned to pick up other rescuers, there was a fleeting moment when searchers thought Kim might be alive. Someone at the landing zone said, "They found him and he's talking."
The mood at the landing zone quickly changed as rescuers and support personnel moved about and prepared for Kim's return.
Sgt. Dean Perske of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife division said people were ecstatic. "This has made my year," he said.
But within a moment, the mood turned to despair when someone broadcast a special communication code. Everyone fell silent and the mood of the rescue staff went flat. "We may have gotten bad information," Perske said then.
Rescuers hooked a red-orange litter to the rope on the helicopter, and Kim's body was hauled out.
About an hour later, emotional officials overseeing the search held a nationally televised press conference. "At 12:03 p.m. today, the body of James Kim was found in the Big Windy Creek," Anderson announced.
It was the only sentence Anderson could muster, as he turned from the bank of microphones to hide his emotions. Lt. Gregg Hastings of the Oregon State Police stepped up and confirmed Kim was dead.
"We're trying to find a few more details, but given these events, we're not going to release much more," Hastings said.
Kim's family -- who paid for search helicopters and other equipment -- remained in seclusion and asked for privacy.
"We want the Kim family to know that we appreciate all of their support," Hastings said. "They are the true champions throughout this whole ordeal. This is extremely tough on those who have an emotional connection" to Kim.
Anderson later said finding Kim dead took an emotional toll on the nearly 100 searchers. "We were devastated," he said. "I'm crushed."
News of Kim's death spread rapidly. Friends and strangers following the saga on television and the Internet posted condolences on a Web site set up by CNET, Kim's employer. Others laid flowers at the door of one of the family's small stores in San Francisco.
Scott Nelson Windels, a spokesman for the Kims, issued a statement that read: "The friends and community of the Kim family are deeply saddened by the news received today about James Kim. We want to send out our utmost thanks to the search and rescue teams who risked their lives in the efforts to bring James back to us. They are true heroes to risk their own lives for a stranger."
Wednesday's effort started upbeat. Despite four nights in the wet, freezing canyon, Anderson and Hastings said searchers were hopeful of finding Kim alive after finding more clues to his location.
Searchers found two gray long-sleeved shirts, a red short-sleeved T-shirt, one wool sock, a girl's blue skirt and pieces of an Oregon state map along the drainage. They thought Kim left the items in a pattern for anyone looking for him.
Although the terrain was described as extremely dangerous, the plan called for bracketing the drainage with 26 searchers spaced evenly across the area. Searchers would comb rocks, boulders, cliff faces and gullies.
From the air, the canyon looks like a picturesque postcard of one of Oregon's mammoth national forests. Light snow dusts the mountainous region lined with knotty pines, Douglas fir and larch. A smattering of roads jag back and forth.
But up close, searchers say, the drainage gives way to sheer cliff faces, craggy rocks and boulders, and ice-cold water feeding the Rogue River.
Carson pilots also planned to drop 18 family-made "care" packages along the creek in case Kim was still alive. Each package contained an orange sweatshirt, sweatpants, a wool blanket, a hand warmer, socks, gloves, flares and food. Also enclosed was a letter to Kim from family members.
Family spared no expense in search for missing man
Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006
By Elizabeth Suh and Larry Bingham
James Kim's family did everything within their considerable means to save him, hiring helicopters and blanketing southwest Oregon with missing fliers.
Kim grew up the son of a successful businessman who immigrated from Korea during high school and believed in family, said John Lim, a Republican state legislator from Gresham who is active in Korean affairs on the West Coast.
Lim met James Kim's father, Spencer Kim of Los Angeles, 10 years ago when both men were invited to Washington, D.C., to discuss North Korea. Spencer Kim, Lim said, owns a construction materials business.View full size Oregon State Police Lt. Gregg Hastings leads a press conference at the Oregon State Police Southwest Region Headquarters in Central Point to address the search for James Kim and his family. The Oregonian
Spencer Kim is also the chairman of an aerospace products company and past chairman of an aluminum manufacturing company.
Lim isn't surprised Spencer Kim rented helicopters to look for his son and prepared to blanket the forest with "care" packages Wednesday.
"He's a man that life is more important than anything," Lim said. "The family came first."
Kim's family, including sister, Eva Kim, and her husband, arrived at the Holiday Inn Express in Grants Pass on Monday and Tuesday but spent little time there, said general manager Terry Goodell. Family and friends, who sometimes said they were too busy to talk long, threw themselves into the search efforts, receiving wake-up calls at 5:30 a.m.
Hotel staff, who worked to manage the family's many calls from other family members, wouldn't see the family again until their wake-up call the next morning, Goodell said.
The party stayed in a suite and two double-bed rooms, and some members had checked out of the hotel Wednesday evening. Goodell said she did not know whether Kati Kim and her daughters had joined the family at the hotel.
The family had constructed 18 numbered "care" packages for one of the chartered Carson Helicopters to drop into the area.
Kim's family also had chartered helicopters from Carson Helicopters of Grants Pass --sometimes as many as three --since Friday when they joined the search of southwest Oregon for James Kim. It was a Carson helicopter that picked up Kati Kim and the two girls Monday and a Carson helicopter that spotted James Kim's body Wednesday. Carson officials coordinated each day with searchers.
Normally, said Undersheriff Brian Anderson, the Josephine County Sheriff's Office may have access to only one helicopter available for search-and-rescue operations because of budget limitations.
"We're a poor county," he said. "The availability of three helicopters is unheard of for us."
Anderson said searchers appreciated the support the Kim family provided.
James Kim's love for family, friends left lasting impression with many
Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006
By Janie Har and Larry Bingham
SAN FRANCISCO -- Josh Bergstrom remembered the weekend his friend Kati Fleming fell for a guy named James Kim. This was years ago when the friends were camping in California's Sierra Nevada.
"I was talking to Kati," Bergstrom said, "and she was jumping up and down over the cute guy she had met."
The couple soon became inseparable. Kim moved to Eugene to be with Fleming as she finished her studies at the University of Oregon. After she graduated, they moved to San Francisco and, in June 2001, married in a small ceremony in Big Sur.
As the search continued for Kim, and then news of his death spread Wednesday, people who knew him recalled a man who loved his family, his job and his life.
James and Kati Kim were the first in a tight circle of friends to marry and have children --daughters Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months --and friends said they made it look easy.
Molly Bergstrom, who is married to Josh Bergstrom, said the couple managed to balance family and work. The last time she saw James was at a birthday party in August. He was massaging Sabine's feet as Penelope was drawing with chalk.
"I remember James sitting outside with Sabine in his lap," she said, "and she was just melting in his arms."
James Kim, 35, graduated in 1993 from Oberlin College in Ohio with a double major in English and government but later went into the technology field.
He was a senior editor at CNET Networks, an Internet media company that provides reviews and other technology-related services. He covered digital music and specialized in portable audio, such as MP3 players, and ran a weekly video podcast for the company's blog.
He started at CNET three years ago after working for TechTV, a now-defunct cable operation that had aimed to be a 24-hour channel devoted to technology and the Internet.
"He's been really visible in the community for a long time," said Lindsey Turrentine, his CNET boss.
Turrentine, like other friends, wasn't surprised Kim ventured out to seek help for his family. After being stranded on a deserted road in southwestern Oregon since Nov. 25, he left on foot Saturday, telling his wife he'd be gone for four hours. His family was rescued Monday, but he never returned to their marooned car.
He was a very involved father and often brought his daughters to work, Turrentine said. His desk was covered with photos of them and his wife. When he built a Lego Mindstormer robot to review for work, he let his daughter, Penelope, stay up late to help.
A Web site run by friends has overflowed with reaction from around the country since the family went missing, and Turrentine thinks that's because Kim wasn't only well-known, but "dynamic, friendly and approachable."View full size Siskiyou National Forest The Oregonian
On a biography he wrote for the company, Kim's description of himself showed he had a sense of humor. His interests, he wrote, encompassed techno and acoustic music --including his "current fave," Ulrich Schnauss, an electronic music composer --"big cities and nature" and "space."
He listed "silicon" as his favorite color, Seattle as a place he'd recently visited and France as the country he'd most traveled. In his backpack, he said, you'd probably find a Rockbox infused iPod Photo, Cowon iAudio 6 (an MP3 player) and Ultimate Ears earbuds.
At home, Kim and his wife seemed to live an ideal San Francisco existence in a simple Noe Valley neighborhood stucco house overlooking the city.
Myrna Dayne and Vaughn Spurlin, who live two houses over, described the Kims as charming.
"They were delightful and smart and interesting to talk to," said Spurlin.
His wife added, "They seemed to take the children everywhere."
Friend Scott Nelson said the Kims once followed another friend riding a motorcycle down California's curvy Highway 1 because it was raining. "It's an example of them thinking of others before themselves," he said.
Friends, co-workers mourn
The Kims lived a few blocks from the Church Street Apothecary, one of two stores they own, which Kati Kim runs. On Wednesday, the shop sat closed, thick bars of Portuguese soap and a bucket of baby socks gracing the window.
Neighborhood residents and shop owners started gathering at the Church Street Apothecary before 7 p.m. for a vigil. They placed bouquets, candles and letters addressed to the Kim family in front of the door. They huddled in the chilly evening, some sobbing quietly.
Genevieve Yuen, who lives across the street from the Kims, lit a candle and wiped her eyes with a tissue. She said she didn't know them well but, like others, was stunned by the news.
Adam Bousiakis said he saw James Kim at his coffee shop, Cafe XO, on a regular basis for four years -- the last time just before Thanksgiving.
"I wished him happy Thanksgiving. He never came back," Bousiakis said. "I can't believe it."
Doe, a clothing and knickknack shop on grittier lower Haight Street, also reflects Kati Kim's eclectic style, stocking soft finger puppets, children's clothes and jeans. By Wednesday night, someone had placed 13 small white paper sacks with tea lights on the sidewalk, along with bouquets of mixed flowers and vases of white tulips, lilies and irises.
A note read: "We were honored and grateful to have known James for many years at TechTV. He touched all our lives and was a lovely man. We are devastated with this loss."
Maria Lopez, who owns Haight Street Work Clothes next door to Doe, said James Kim came to the store almost every day to deliver merchandise.
"They looked happy all the time," said Lopez, who lit a red candle for them near the cash register.
At James Kim's office, co-workers left the building crying Wednesday. Some women placed long-stemmed red roses out front.
Neil Ashe, chief executive officer of CNET Networks, came out to thank searchers and talk about his colleague. He described Kim as passionate about his work and kind and caring to co-workers.
"The steps Kati took to keep the kids safe and the steps that James took to try to bring his family to safety were nothing less than heroic," he said. "It actually raised our hopes that we would end up with a good outcome."
But their hopes were dashed when searchers announced that they'd found Kim's body.
The company announced it was canceling its holiday party this Saturday. It wouldn't be the same without Kim.
Kim likely dead 2 days before body found: Searchers give more details about what may have happened to James Kim after he left his family
Friday, Dec. 8, 2006
By Elizabeth Suh and David Austin
The San Francisco man who left his stranded family deep in the southwest Oregon woods to seek help died of hypothermia possibly two days before searchers found him, the doctor who conducted the autopsy said Thursday.
Deputy state medical examiner Dr. James Olson thinks 35-year-old James Kim probably died two days after he left his wife and two young daughters Saturday to find help.
"But that's only an educated guess, given the conditions and how much exertion he put on his body to get through treacherous conditions," Olson said. "It's possible that we'll never know exactly when he died."
Olson said Kim's body was "soft and flaccid" when searchers found him face up in 3 feet of water at 12:03 p.m. Wednesday. After the body was brought out of Big Windy Creek, it never went into rigor mortis -- the stiffening that occurs within eight hours of death, Olson said. Rigor mortis dissipates after about 24 hours.
Olson said it's extremely likely that rigor had set in and disappeared already.
Searchers found the fully clothed Kim after an intensive six-day ground and air search that led to the rescue of his wife, Kati, and daughters Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months, two days earlier.
Before he died, James Kim, already weak from little food and freezing temperatures, hiked five miles up a snow-covered road, then five miles down a treacherously steep canyon that stymied dozens of searchers for two days. In the end, his body was found about a mile from his station wagon, separated from the vehicle by the steep walls of a canyon.
At a news conference Thursday, search leaders released more details of how the Kims got lost in the rugged Coast Range 30 miles west of Grants Pass, how they got stuck and what they did for nine days in their car.
The Kims were reported missing Nov. 29 after failing to return home from a Thanksgiving vacation to Seattle. Police said the Kims left a Denny's restaurant in Roseburg about 9 p.m. Nov. 25 for the Tu Tu Tun Lodge near Gold Beach. After missing the exit from Interstate 5 onto Oregon 42, they decided about 10:30 p.m. to take what looked like a direct route on Bear Camp Road.
Bear Camp Road starts at about 900 feet elevation and climbs to 4,000 feet over the top of the Coast Range to Gold Beach. A rough road even in the summer, in the winter it is clogged with snow, but used by hunters, snowmobilers and others seeking outdoor recreation.
As their all-wheel-drive 2005 Saab crept along the narrow track, the Kims found the road signs confusing and noticed that some warned of snow and dangerous winter driving conditions. It was snowing, and they stopped several times to move rocks out of the road.View full size A search helicopter in action during the search for the Kims. The Oregonian
The couple decided to turn back, but were forced to drive in reverse, with James Kim looking out through an open driver's door and revving the engine to move through the snow.
Running low on gas and seeking to get to a lower elevation, the couple left Bear Camp Road, turning down a Bureau of Land Management road that normally is closed by a locked gate. Vandals had cut the lock and opened the gate. The Kims drove 15 miles down the road to where it was only raining. At 2 a.m. they stopped for the night.
The next day, they were confronted by heavy snow and stayed in the car, occasionally running their engine to use the heater. They continued to do the same over the next two days as snow fell. James Kim read to his children every night.
On Wednesday, the family was out of gas, and started a fire using magazines and driftwood, but the wood was frozen, heavy and hard to gather. The next day, they turned to a spare tire for a fire in the afternoon.
On Friday, they pried the four tires from their car and, by 11 a.m., had stoked a blaze they hoped would attract attention. They also began stowing wood under their car to try to keep it dry. By afternoon, their fire was out. They heard a helicopter --area agencies had begun their search for the family.
Father ventures out
Saturday morning, the couple switched gears. In studying a map of Oregon, they estimated the town of Galice was located on a river about four miles east of them. James Kim hoped to get to a road with cars on it or follow a river to the town.
In reality, the Rogue River hamlet was 15 miles away, separated by four other steep creek drainages.
Saturday morning, James Kim built a fire for the family before saying goodbye at 7:45 a.m., with a promise he would return by 1 p.m. if he didn't find help.
About 9:30 a.m. Kati Kim heard and saw more helicopters. At 1 p.m. her husband had not returned.
James Kim backtracked along the BLM road they had traveled a week earlier. After five miles, the road crosses Big Windy Creek. He climbed down into the drainage, dropping a pair of gray pants one-quarter mile from the road, then continued another quarter mile down to the creek.
He followed the creek east, back in the direction of the family's car. Two miles later, he dropped several more pieces of clothing and bits of his map.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters said deputies who found the clothes believed James may have spent a night there.
It was 2.5 more miles down the creek before James came to rest in the water, a half-mile short of where the creek tumbles into the Rogue.
He was found with a backpack and wearing a heavy dark jacket, gray sweater, T-shirt, blue jeans and tennis shoes. He had trekked more than 10 miles on his quest. When he died, he was hardly more than a mile -- in a straight line -- from his family's car.
Searchers also pointed out Thursday that the car was just a mile away -- via another rugged forest road -- from Black Bar Lodge. Although closed for the winter, the lodge was stocked with leftover supplies from the summer, its owner John James, told The Associated Press.
"He has no way to know" about the lodge, said Josephine County Undersheriff Brian Anderson. "It's a tragedy."
Dad "did nothing wrong"
James Kim was a popular senior editor at CNET Networks Inc. in San Francisco, writing reviews about digital music and audio devices for the technology-themed Web site and a CNET blog about electronics. He also appeared on the company's video segments and on television.
During Thursday's news conference, Oregon State Police Lt. Gregg Hastings emphasized that the Kims were travelers unfamiliar with the area caught in rapidly changing weather conditions and should not be blamed for that.
"James Kim did nothing wrong," Hastings said. "He was trying to save his family." Still, he urged drivers to check road conditions by calling special state numbers as they travel.
Anderson said while the search's ultimate end was saddening, he was glad it came to a resolution.
"I am happy we found Kati and the kids," Anderson said. "I am happy that we were able to give closure to the family by finding James."
Following a hunch, pilot finds Kati Kim
Friday, Dec. 8, 2006
By Lisa Grace Lednicer
GRANTS PASS -- Helicopter pilot John Rachor has spent three decades hiking through and flying over the Rogue River Canyon. He knows its hidden spur roads "better than just about anybody," he said.View full size Kati Kim
Last weekend, after reading about the Kim family's disappearance, Rachor had a hunch they'd made a common mistake and taken Bear Camp Road as a shortcut. In summer, the narrow road is used by Rogue River rafters to drive back and forth. In winter it's used by hunters, cross-country skiers and Christmas tree seekers.
Visitors heading west from Galice to Agness get to a fork near the road's summit. Some mistakenly take the right fork into a nest of old logging roads. In 1994, a camper salesman got stuck in the snow in the area; his remains were found the next spring.
So on Sunday, after Rachor returned from a Christmas tree trip with his grandchildren, he climbed into his four-seat helicopter.
The fog had just lifted when he left his weekend place in Agness. Rachor, who flies there regularly from his home near Medford, circled the area for about 2.5 hours and finally noticed car tracks. But he was low on fuel and headed back.
On Monday, Rachor made another 2.5-hour flight. He saw what he thought were footprints and radioed his latitude and longitude to search workers. Low on fuel again, he headed to the Grants Pass airport to gas up. Then he backtracked about five miles from where he first spotted the footprints.
At 1:45 p.m., Rachor said, he spotted a tiny figure waving an umbrella. It was Kati Kim. Next to the family car "SOS" and "Out of Gas" were stamped in the snow.
"I was just elated," Rachor said. "I had visions of the car being upside down. She kept pointing up the road as if she was trying to point to the way her husband had gone."
Rachor alerted the search command post. He hovered about 200 feet over her, trying to reassure her that help was coming.
Soon, three helicopters hired by the Kim family arrived. One dropped food; another landed and picked up Kati Kim and her daughters.
Rachor said he's been involved in several search and rescue efforts. Four years ago, he helped lead searchers to children who had run up a trail after a dog and disappeared. They'd survived by spending the night under a tree.
This time, the outcome was opposite: Rescue workers recovered the body of Kati's husband, James Kim, Wednesday afternoon.
"I'm really depressed over that," Rachor said. "I held out hope for him all the time."
Inside the search for the Kim family:
Lawman races time and elements: His last week on the job becomes an odyssey of hope and tears
Sunday, Dec. 10, 2006
By Michelle Roberts
Josephine County Undersheriff Brian Anderson sat down to a desk in a spare bedroom of his Grants Pass Victorian house Wednesday evening, Nov. 29. Anderson, a 46-year-old with reddish-brown hair, flipped on the family computer -- he's married to an emergency-room nurse and has a 16-year-old daughter -- and waited for it to boot.
He remembers thinking about the week ahead -- his last after 20 years with the Josephine County Sheriff's Office. As undersheriff, he wore a handgun strapped to his belt, ran the office's day-to-day operations and supervised the search-and-rescue team. An affable 180-pounder who stands 5 feet 8, Anderson grew up in Oregon, and the team's duties suited him: He's an enthusiastic fisherman and white-water rafter who enjoys Josephine County's rugged terrain.
Four weeks earlier, the undersheriff had thought he'd be moving into the sheriff's office. But in early November, he lost a bitterly fought election, and he just couldn't bring himself to work for the new sheriff. Instead of moving across the hallway, he was packing up his office for good.View full size Josephine County Undersheriff Brian Anderson The Oregonian
He planned to spend the next week answering e-mails, turning his files over to his successor and saying goodbye. After the holidays, he'd start a new job as a lieutenant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.
With any luck, everything would be quiet until then.
The computer beeped as it finished booting. Anderson's gaze fell on a news bulletin about a San Francisco family that had vanished on a Pacific Northwest road trip. After reading that the family was headed to Gold Beach, he remembers one thought flashing through his mind: Bear Camp Road.
Anderson knew the road well. He and his wife had themselves been stuck on Bear Camp Road 20 years earlier. In March, he'd searched the same area for members of Ashland's Stivers family, who spent two weeks snowbound in their motor home. And in 1995, he worked the case of a salesman who'd tried to take back roads from the coast to Grants Pass. Teenagers found the man's body in his pickup, where he'd starved to death.
About 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 25, James and Kati Kim, traveling with their two daughters -- 4-year-old Penelope and 7-month-old Sabine -- stopped at a Roseburg Denny's. After dinner they continued their trip from Seattle, where they'd celebrated Thanksgiving. They'd stopped in Portland to visit a college friend and then continued on toward Tu Tu Tun Lodge near Gold Beach, a planned stop on their trip home to San Francisco. They missed the Interstate 5 exit onto Oregon 42, the main highway to the coast. Just north of Grants Pass, they decided to try an alternate route.
Heading west out of Merlin, Bear Camp Road runs through U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Siskiyou National Forest land. The road winds over steep ridges, reaching more than 4,500 feet. Much of it is one lane with occasional turnouts, and signs warn of dangerous driving conditions. Sections are unpaved and often get washed out.
As their 2005 Saab station wagon climbed into the mountains, the Kims ran into heavy snow. James Kim tried to back out. Low on gas, he headed down a BLM side road, open only because vandals had cut the lock on a gate. About 2 a.m., after driving just more than 21 miles, he left the snow behind and parked in the rain. Attempts to call out with a cell phone failed. The family fell asleep, and the rain turned to snow. When the Kims woke, their all-wheel-drive vehicle was hopelessly stuck.
Anderson remembers that at midmorning Thursday, Nov. 30, a Portland police officer called to ask that Josephine County deputies look for the Kims along Bear Camp Road. He dispatched two deputies, who drove west through heavy snow to the crest of the road. They saw no sign of the Kims.
Meanwhile, Curry County searchers started up the same road from the coast. But the snow from that direction was so thick that they made it only seven miles.
Anderson called in several search-and-rescue workers and sent one of Josephine County's two Sno-Cats grinding over the mountain pass. The tracked vehicle went all the way through. Nothing.
"They could be anywhere," Anderson remembers saying of the Kims. "Anywhere."
Brian Anderson had no way of knowing, but the Kims remained stranded on the spur off Bear Camp Road, in exactly the area that had occurred to him when he first heard they were missing. There, they huddled in their car, occasionally running the engine to use the heater. It snowed heavily through Tuesday, Nov. 28. The Kims melted snow in their mouths for water and rationed the few jars of baby food and jelly they had with them. When that ran out, Kati nursed both girls.
On Wednesday, Nov. 29, the day before Anderson got his call from Portland, the family ran out of gas and started a fire with magazines, but wood was frozen, heavy and hard to gather. The next day, they turned to a spare tire for an afternoon fire. On Friday, they removed the four tires from their car and, by 11 a.m., had stoked a blaze they hoped would attract attention. By afternoon, their fire was out. Only then, with their signal extinguished, did they hear the chop of a helicopter in the distance. The sound grew softer and then disappeared.
On Saturday morning, Dec. 2, the couple studied a map and estimated the town of Galice was on a river four miles east. James Kim hoped to get to a road with cars on it or follow a river to the town. In reality, the Rogue River hamlet was 15 miles away, separated by four other steep creek drainages and mile upon mile of treacherous terrain.
Early Saturday morning, James built a fire for his family and promised he'd return by 1 p.m. if he didn't find help. Then he kissed them goodbye.
Brian Anderson's home phone rang before 9 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 3. Still groggy after staying up late to watch his beloved Oregon State University Beavers beat Hawaii 35-32, he reached for the phone and heard Sara Rubrecht, county emergency services manager. Hey boss, Anderson remembers her saying. It looks as if they've narrowed the area where that missing family might be.
At 1:45 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 26, the night the Kims became stranded, two brief text messages had passed through a cell phone tower and were delivered to the Kims' mobile phone. A Medford man working for Edge Wireless found records of those messages and figured the family was within 20 miles of the cell tower, narrowing the search area.
State police also had information that the Kims last used a credit card at a Roseburg Denny's just after 8 p.m. on Nov. 25. The family had ordered a children's macaroni and cheese, a Boca Burger and a chef salad.
It was Anderson's day off, and Rubrecht knew he was trying to ease through his last week on the force. Still, she asked him whether he wanted to attend a meeting at the sheriff's office with Lt. Brian Powers of the Oregon State Police. Anderson didn't think twice. He pulled on a pair of blue jeans and his black sheriff's jacket and drove five blocks to the sheriff's office, where Rubrecht and a state police officer waited.
There, on a conference table, lay several maps produced by the Edge Wireless technicians. The 11-by-17-inch pages were a maze of triangles and shadings, and Anderson didn't know what to make of them.
They called a technician at home, and he drove from Medford to Grants Pass, where he explained what the shadings on the map represented. The area included parts of Josephine, Douglas, Coos and Curry counties. But at least there was someplace to search. And there was no denying a big chunk of it fell on Anderson's turf.
Up to then, no one had been clearly running the operation. "There was some frustration on the search originally," Anderson said later, "because there was no clear-cut agency in charge. Portland PD. San Francisco PD. In Oregon, you've got no agency that is coordinating."
Anderson quickly set up a command post at the Josephine County search-and-rescue headquarters and invited everyone to meet there to pull information together. They ramped up for a full search Monday morning, Dec. 4.
He knew he faced extreme pressure and scrutiny, with "a lot of eyes" watching his every move. He'd heard that James Kim's father, Spencer Kim, a powerful Korean American businessman from Los Angeles, had flown in on a private jet and had hired private helicopters to fly over the area. National media were assembling, too, and because of James Kim's high-tech connections -- he was a senior editor at CNET Networks Inc., a technology-themed Web site -- the Internet was alive with comment and speculation. This was going to be big.
Anderson called his wife, Julie, late Sunday afternoon. "I'm not going to be home for a while," he told her.
Just an hour after her husband hiked away on Saturday, Dec. 2, Kati Kim heard and saw more helicopters. The time when her husband had promised he would return --1 p.m. --came and went. She thought about walking out herself but realized she was too weak from hunger to carry both girls.
James Kim was hiking up the BLM road he'd traveled a week earlier. Where the road crosses Big Windy Creek, he climbed down into the drainage, dropping a pair of gray pants a quarter mile from the road. Then he continued another quarter mile, down to the creek.
He followed the creek, roughly parallel to the road leading back toward the family's car. Two miles later, he dropped several more pieces of clothing and bits of his map. He laid the clothes out in a straight line, and tucked a red T-shirt beneath a log. Deputies later found an indentation in the wet ground, where they believe he slept for a night.
The next morning, 100 searchers, including those flying Carson Logging helicopters, swarmed the search area. At 1:45 p.m. Monday, Dec. 4, a local businessman who was piloting his own helicopter spotted Kati Kim, waving a pink umbrella. Carson Logging employees landed and picked up the mother and her daughters.
Whoops of joy rose at the command center. But the elation was short-lived. "We were happy," Anderson remembers, "but we immediately refocused our thoughts on one question: 'Where's James?' "
The crews looking for James Kim had to cover steep ground blocked by downed trees, heavy brush and an occasional cliff. They avoided obstacles by crossing and recrossing Big Windy Creek.
By nightfall, authorities were throwing everything they could into the search. Two Jackson County sheriff's deputies tracked Kim's footprints in the snow. Searchers in Sno-Cats drove the roads. An Oregon Air National Guard helicopter equipped with night-vision and heat-sensing equipment flew a five-mile stretch of the drainage. The sensors picked up two "hot spots." One was probably too big to be James Kim. But the other?
"We are operating under the assumption that he is alive," Anderson told the news media that evening. "We are so close."
Anderson gave an interview to Larry King and stumbled into bed sometime after midnight. He'd be getting up in less than five hours. Haunted by the reports of hot spots in the snowy creek canyon, he tossed and turned and woke on the hour.
Behind his closed eyelids, he saw competing images. In one, he imagined shaking James Kim's warm hand. In the other, he saw Kim lying in the snow, cold and still.
On Tuesday, Dec. 5, searchers in Windy Creek Canyon found the gray pants, setting off media speculation that, in the final stages of hypothermia, James Kim was shedding clothes because he thought he was hot. But Anderson figured that Kim, who was wearing two pair of pants, had shed the top layer because it was slowing him in the rough country.
Then searchers came across two gray long-sleeved shirts, a red short-sleeved T-shirt, a wool sock, a girl's blue skirt and pieces of an Oregon map, all deliberately lined up. Anderson didn't know exactly what that meant, but he figured it was good news. James Kim was still moving, he remembers thinking. "But it was so frustrating," Anderson said. "We just couldn't seem to get in front of him."
That afternoon, Anderson received a call from Spencer Kim. He wanted to come to the command center to see what was going on. State police troopers sneaked him past throngs of reporters and photographers by having him duck down in the back of a squad car.
The command center grew silent when Spencer Kim walked in. Small, but with a commanding presence, he approached the command-center crew, looked into their eyes one by one and said, "I am Mr. Kim. Thank you."
Even though this was Anderson's command center, the undersheriff remembers that Spencer Kim came across as the one in charge. All his resources, Spencer Kim said, were at the search team's disposal.
The searchers told him about the items they'd found. "I know my son," he said. "I know what he's trying to do."
Then he turned and looked at Anderson and Lt. Powers. "I'm counting on you," he said.
That night, Anderson was high on adrenaline. Back at his Grants Pass Victorian, he heated a bowl of chili in the microwave and told his wife he still had hope. "I think we can do this," he said. "I think we can bring him back alive."
The next morning, Anderson was frantic to get helicopters back into the air. But thick fog brought everything to a halt until midmorning. Not long after the first helicopter lifted off, rescue workers spotted a motionless form in Windy Creek Canyon.
A Carson helicopter dangled Jackson County SWAT team members Grant Forman and Rick Mendenhall about 200 feet above where James Kim lay. They gripped the bright yellow rope tightly as they were lowered into the gorge.
Forman, scanning the scene from the air, concluded Kim was dead and called in what they'd seen. Anderson heard the dispatch, and the room fell silent around him.
Everyone moved into the radio room. The dispatch crackled over the airwaves: "Subject located. EMS responding." The wording caused momentary confusion -- the prearranged code revealing that James Kim had been found dead was simply "subject located." If Kim was alive, the code called for "subject located -- we need medical."
In the confusion, some preliminary news reports declared that James Kim had survived. But Anderson quickly realized that the emergency medical technicians were needed only to declare him dead.
Kim lay motionless in a shallow pool, his head brushing against a rock and his body slightly submerged in Windy Creek's clear waters.
The helicopter lowered a red-orange Stokes basket with a camera and other equipment attached. Forman and Mendenhall gently placed the basket on some rocks a few feet from the body. Forman picked up the camera. It wasn't a crime scene, but he took care to snap pictures from every angle.
Then they covered Kim with a blanket and placed him in the basket. The helicopter lowered the rope and lifted the basket toward the sky. Kim's body dangled high above the forest that had hidden him for 12 days.
Anderson worried that Kati Kim would hear about her husband's death on television, and he frantically tried to arrange for somebody to deliver the message face to face. His fears were well placed. The news flashed on the screen of a TV in the room where Kati was waiting with a friend. The friend saw the flash, but Katie missed it, and the friend quickly turned off the set.
About an hour later, Anderson stood before a throng of reporters and issued what would be his last official statement with the Josephine County Sheriff's Office: "At 12:03 today, the body of James Kim was found in the Big Windy Creek."
It was the only sentence Anderson could muster. He broke down, dropped his head, and turned from the bank of microphones to hide his tears.
BLM left gate open on road to Kims' fate: After blaming vandals, the U.S. agency learns its workers failed to bar the entry to a maze of logging spurs
Thursday, Dec. 14, 2006
By Peter Sleeth
Federal workers failed to lock a gate blocking the logging road that led James Kim to his death last week -- a different story than has been told since his death and his family's rescue.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management was supposed to lock the gate near the entrance of the road, known only as 34-8-36, on Nov. 1. The gate is meant to prevent people from turning onto a maze of logging spurs instead of staying on Bear Camp Road, which cuts through the mountains to the Oregon Coast.
Officials with the agency have maintained since last week that the gate had been locked but was later vandalized. But BLM spokesman Michael Campbell said Wednesday that an internal investigation this week into the suspected vandals turned up the surprising culprit: the agency itself.
"The idea was our BLM engineer, the lead engineer, had directed the staff to go out there and lock the gate on Nov. 1, Campbell said. "Basically what they found was, when they got out there, they were unable to confirm no one was trapped behind the gate. So they made the decision not to close it."
An internal investigation into the lapse is under way, Campbell said.
The family disappeared 21 miles up the spur road on Nov. 25 as they drove to Gold Beach from Merlin along Interstate 5. Kim's wife, Kati, 30, and daughters Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months, were found Dec. 4 on the narrow logging road, after being stuck in the snow for nine days with few supplies.View full size Cards and flowers left at a San Francisco apothecary as a remembrance to James Kim. Associated Press/San Francisco Chronicle
James Kim, 35, was found dead two days later in a creek. He had walked more than 16 miles in the cold and snow in a futile effort to get help.
Scott Nelson Windels, a close friend of James and Kati Kim, said he was not upset about the fact that the gate was left unlocked. Family members could not be reached for comment.
"It's not going to change anything that happened," said Nelson Windels, one of the organizers of the family's search effort. "I will just hope that will change what will happen in the future and help other people."
Campbell said he did not know why the BLM crew never returned to lock the gate.
"We don't really know the mind-set of the staff," he said. "This question is going to be part of our internal review of our policies and procedure."
In the Medford District of the BLM, there are approximately 5,000 miles of road to police, he said. It may well have been that BLM staff simply forgot, Campbell said.
The gate was locked Dec. 6 and will remain locked for the winter.
In that area along Bear Camp Road, three of seven BLM roads have gates, a BLM spokeswoman said.
Two are blocked to prevent diseases from being carried into the forest that would harm Port Orford cedar trees. The third gate, on road 34-8-36, is there specifically to prevent people from wandering onto that road. It is a common occurrence as the road splits in a confusing manner, she said.
The Kim family mistakenly traveled far up the logging road before being stuck in the snow.
Confusion hampered search for Kims: Gaps in communication among agencies and leadership shortcomings proved costly
Sunday, Dec. 17, 2006
By Peter Sleeth, Steve Suo, Michelle Roberts and Elizabeth Suh
Searchers failed to exploit vital clues in the hunt for the family of James Kim, including several crucial pieces of evidence that surfaced in the final hours of his life, when he was freezing, alone and lost in the woods.
An examination by The Oregonian found a search plagued by confusion, gaps in communication, and failures of leadership in Josephine County, where the Kim family was found.
Lt. Brian Powers, the Oregon State Police commander in the region, said the lack of a central command prompted him to take control Sunday, Dec. 3, the day before Kati Kim and her two daughters were found alive. At the time, the search was sprawling over four counties, each with legal authority to conduct its own operations.
"I knew we had information gaps that weren't being filled, and I just felt like the Oregon State Police could provide something to that effort to make sure that family gets found," Powers said. "If that effort meant knocking down some jurisdictional lines . . . I guess that is what it was."
In the end, the family was found by a volunteer pilot, one of several key breakthroughs achieved by people not connected to the official search. The confirmation that the family was south of Roseburg came from a citizen tipster; and the cell phone evidence narrowing the search was provided by amateur detectives at an Oregon wireless carrier.
Many of the key missteps came in Josephine County. The search-and-rescue coordinator now acknowledges she was overwhelmed by the demands of the search. She failed to call for help from the National Guard, which meant that heat-detecting helicopters stayed on the ground in the crucial two nights James Kim slept in the forest.
Her direct supervisor, an undersheriff in his last week on the job, said he ignored a late-night call from her about the case because he was watching an Oregon State football game on television.
Perhaps the most significant lost opportunity came on Sunday, Dec. 3, when two helicopter pilots discovered tire tracks on the snow-encrusted logging road that led directly to the Kims' marooned car. Randy Jones, the second pilot, landed on the road and directly confirmed the sighting, which he said he relayed to Josephine County dispatchers.
A truck sent to check the road turned back a few hours later, stymied by the deep snow. The searchers filed a report that evening saying they had seen "lots of tire and foot tracks" and that their assignment was "not completed."
Although helicopters were available that day, none was sent, and Powers said he was never told of the sighting.
"That's new information to me," Powers said Friday. "That is critical information that should have gotten to me. I was there all day Sunday and I don't ever remember hearing the information we found foot traffic or we found vehicle traffic, because that would have been a priority. We would have went there at night."
The trip goes awry
The Kims -- James, Kati, Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months -- spent Thanksgiving in Seattle visiting relatives. After brunch with a friend in Portland on Saturday, Nov. 25, they headed south on Interstate 5, bound for the coastal town of Gold Beach where they planned to stay at the luxurious Tu Tu' Tun Lodge. They made a simple mistake on the dark highway, missing the turnoff for U.S. 42, the best route to the Oregon Coast.
As the hour grew late, the Kims turned down Bear Camp Road, a Forest Service road that appears on the map to be a straight shot to the coast. They drove past signs that said the road was impassable in winter, getting out of the car, Kati Kim later told authorities, to move boulders that blocked their path.
The family climbed into the mountains, the elevation turning the icy rain into a wet snow. At times, the snow was falling so hard James Kim had to drive with his car door open to see the road, Kati Kim recounted later. Less than 20 miles off the highway, the road forked.
To the left: Bear Camp Road headed farther up the mountains. To the right: What looked like a more promising route, a wide paved expanse, headed downhill. It was logging road 34-8-36, a wrong turn so notorious it is the only road in this backcountry that the Bureau of Land Management routinely gates in the winter to protect travelers.
The gate was open, BLM officials would later acknowledge, because the bureau had failed to follow normal procedure and close it for the winter. The Kims plunged ahead, snaking their way along a route that sent them deeper and deeper into the forest. Up and down the roads they drove, traveling 21 miles on the logging road as it corkscrewed into the forest.
On Sunday, Nov. 26, at 1:45 a.m., one of the family's cell phones received two text messages. It is not clear from whom.
The radio signals traveled in a straight line from a cellular tower 15 miles away, a tenuous tie to civilization in some of Oregon's roughest terrain. The text messages, which came in two bursts, were handled by Edge Wireless, a cell phone carrier that serves Southern Oregon.
A computer created a record of the call so that the Kims could be charged on their next bill. That record included a crucial piece of information: the location of the tower that had relayed the message. It was the cyber equivalent of a flare in the night and placed the Kims somewhere in a wedge-shaped piece of terrain.
The technology that Kim had devoted his professional life to covering could save him --if the people searching for him understood how it worked. Fifteen minutes later, the family stopped for the night. The snow fell steadily.
When they awoke Sunday morning, they were trapped.
The Kims were not reported missing until Wednesday, Nov. 29, when their house sitter told San Francisco police they were two days overdue. By the end of the week, their family and Oregon law enforcement officials were frantically searching the western part of the state.
The search begins
With no real clues, county sheriffs and state police in Oregon began driving the logical routes between I-5 and the coast. The Oregon Air National Guard sent a Black Hawk helicopter aloft to search in Curry County.
Worried that the police were not doing enough, Kim family members in California hired Carson Helicopter Services Inc. in Merlin. By noon Friday, Dec. 1, the company had three choppers in the air. Kim's friends and family cast a wide net, scouring the rugged terrain.
In Curry, Jackson and Josephine counties, which straddle the Coast Range, law enforcement officials who knew the terrain best focused on Bear Camp Road. They had good reason. Over the past several years, a number of travelers trying to get to the coast had been stranded there. Several had mistakenly turned down 34-8-36, the logging road on which the Kims' car was stuck.
On Friday afternoon, Sarah Rubrecht, Josephine County's emergency services manager, and Jason Stanton, a BLM deputy, set out for Bear Camp Road from Grants Pass in a four-wheel-drive Ford Expedition.
Rubrecht said the drive made her "extremely car sick" and she had to stop several times along the route because she was afraid she'd vomit. She said she and Stanton decided to "turn off all logic" and simply follow the signs to the coast as an inexperienced traveler might do. When they came to the logging road, Stanton and Rubrecht went straight.
"Where I'm holding the most guilt is that when Jason and I drove up on Friday, we got to that fork in the road," Rubrecht said. "What we didn't take into consideration is that it was snowing hard the night the Kims went through, and they couldn't see that sign to the coast.
That same morning, John James, 45, the owner of Black Bar Lodge on the Rogue River, heard about the Kims on television and "had a hunch" they were up on that very spur road. James said he has redirected countless motorists over the years who had strayed off Bear Camp onto the logging road.
He left a message with Rubrecht but says she didn't call back, an account Rubrecht later confirmed. So James and his brother went up the spur road on their snowmobiles. It hadn't snowed for a few days, and he said they hit bare ground after traveling about one mile. Before that, however, they could see fresh tire tracks that had been snowed over recently.
Later that day, he ran into Rubrecht and Stanton on Bear Camp Road. He says he told them about the tracks and that someone needed to check the logging roads thoroughly.
He says Rubrecht brushed him off. "She was rude in attitude, very curt," James said. "They definitely weren't real receptive to us being up there, it was like, 'Joe Public doesn't belong here.' "
Rubrecht doesn't deny being impatient with James on the road that day. "I was trying not to throw up," she said. Rubrecht does not recall James telling her she needed to check his road. On the contrary, she said she "lowered it on her priority list" because she recalls him saying he had checked it.
She says she did not, however, cross the road off the list of possibilities. "I would have never cleared the road just by some citizen telling me they ran the road," she said. "But it may have gotten mentally lowered on the priority list because we only had a limited number of resources in the first couple of days."
She says she only remembers James tell her generally to "check those spur roads," to which her response was, "Duh? What else am I going to do?"
Rubrecht didn't call out search teams to inspect the logging roads.
That evening, a witness came forward and reported seeing the Kims at a Denny's in Roseburg. The search grid was now about 2,000 square miles.
Another pair of volunteers had an idea that day that could narrow the possibilities even further. They worked at the Medford office of Edge Wireless, a Bend-based company with an extensive presence in rural areas of Southern Oregon.
Eric Fuqua, an engineer, and Noah Pugsley, a co-worker, knew that two major national carriers, Cingular and Verizon, lack cell sites in the area. If the Kims were customers of either company, any calls they made or received in Edge's territory would create a record that would identify which cell tower carried the signal.
Edge President Donnie Castleman, who described Fuqua's and Pugsley's roles, said his company's records are precise. Each tower has three antennas pointed in different directions. Edge's records would say which antenna transmitted the call, narrowing the search area to a wedge on the map.
Fuqua and Pugsley needed one thing to begin their search: the Kims' cell phone numbers.
Things were growing desperate inside the car that sheltered the Kim family. It had been a week since their last full meal and they had subsisted on berries and a few jars of baby food. They could get water by melting snow. But there was no heat; the car had run out of gas. The two children were crying from hunger, Kati Kim later told Lindsey Turrentine, James' boss at CNET.
On Saturday, Dec. 2, at 7:45 a.m., James set out on the logging road with plans to return in a few hours.
A few hours later, Sarah Cain, one of James Kim's colleagues at CNET in San Francisco, received a phone call from Fuqua, the Edge engineer. He said he could help. Cain said she relayed the message to Kim's sister, Eva, who had been closely involved in the search for several days. According to Castleman, the family provided Fuqua the cell phone numbers they needed.
Within hours, the Edge team hit paydirt.
Castleman said Fuqua called at 5 p.m. to say he'd made a crucial discovery: the 1:45 a.m. text messages. The signal, he said, was delivered by an antenna on a cell tower near Glendale. The antenna pointed west toward Bear Camp Road.
Knowing that, Fuqua was able to deduce even more about the Kims' whereabouts. Cell signals are hampered by mountains, which meant the signal was likely to have come from a point with a clean line of sight to the tower. That eliminated large sections of the wedge-shaped territory in range of the antenna.
By 6 p.m. that Saturday, Dec. 2, Fuqua was on the phone to the Oregon State Police with a message: He had a break in the case. Soon after, state police Lt. Powers, called Rubrecht to report Fuqua's discovery.
Rubrecht, a 32-year-old former police dispatcher, was named Josephine County's search coordinator in 2001 with no prior experience in the field.
Earlier that day, she had declared Bear Camp Road clear. Rubrecht spent Friday night and much of Saturday pursuing a tip from an employee of her husband's who said he had seen the Kims driving down from the crest of Bear Camp Road safely a week earlier.
On the phone Saturday night, Powers and Rubrecht agreed to meet early Sunday morning to refocus the search.
Powers said he had suspected for two days that the couple were lost somewhere in the area around Bear Camp Road, a view consistent with Fuqua's finding. High-tech means were available that might have exploited the discovery that night, but no one called for its deployment.
The Oregon National Guard had a helicopter equipped with sensitive heat detectors that work best in the hours before dawn. It had spent Saturday searching roads in Curry County, where official there said they were "going to pass the search to Josephine County."
The flight log says "there were no requests."
On Saturday night, Rubrecht tried to phone her boss, Josephine County Undersheriff Brian Anderson, who was watching the Oregon State-Hawaii game. He said he chose not to take the call, noting that it was his day off.
Back on the logging road, Kati Kim and her children were huddled in the car without James, who had hiked at least 10 miles along the logging road before turning down a steep hill into Big Windy Creek canyon.
He was dangerously exposed to the elements.
At 8 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, Rubrecht, Powers, Stanton and Anderson met at the Josephine County Sheriff's Office. Rubrecht said she pleaded with her boss to come in, saying: "Brian, I know it's your day off and it's your last week, but I really need you here. This is kind of above my head." The searchers were having trouble understanding Fuqua's map and so they asked him to drive over from Medford.
They waited nearly 45 minutes. When he got there, Fuqua explained what the shadings on the map represented. The area included parts of Josephine, Douglas, Coos and Curry counties. The BLM road shooting off Bear Camp Road, where the family would be found the following day, was one of the few areas where a cell signal could reach and a road existed.
As the authorities deliberated, a local helicopter pilot set out on his own. Like Powers, John Rachor grew ever more certain over the weekend where the Kim family was stranded.
At 10:30 a.m., he lifted off in his own four-seat helicopter, convinced he could find them. Rachor, who runs a string of Burger Kings, asked no one where to look. He said he flew straight to Bear Camp Road and logging road 34-8-36.
His helicopter climbed high over the steep ridges formed where creeks tumble into the Rogue River. He flew in the area north of Bear Camp Road, tracing the spurs. Around noon, he said, he was flying low over the wrong turn the Kim family had taken.
What he saw alarmed him: Down on the road were what appeared to be human footprints in the snow and car tire tracks, slightly obliterated by a recent snowfall.
Rachor said he wanted to keep looking but was low on fuel and reluctantly decided to head for his home base at the Medford airport, about 50 air miles to the southeast. Unsure of whether he had seen tracks from a search-and-rescue vehicle or the Kim family car, he did not immediately report the sighting.
At the airport, Rachor met up with Randy Jones, a volunteer pilot for the Jackson County sheriff, and told him about the footprints and tire tracks. He asked Jones to check it out. Armed with Rachor's map coordinates, he flew right to the site on the spur and landed on the narrow road.
The tracks were bear tracks. The bear, Jones determined, had set its rear paw in the front paw tracks, making them look like biped prints from the air. But he, too, saw tire tracks on road 34-8-36. He radioed back to Josephine County dispatchers what he had seen.
At 1:35 p.m., a four-wheel-drive pickup was dispatched up the road. The two-person volunteer team, Lynn Denby and his wife, Robin, were supposed to drive as far as possible up the road for a visual inspection. Six hours later, the couple reported in a handwritten document what they had seen.
They said the snow was too deep to make it more than several miles. At the bottom of the document, in an area where the author is asked to mark whether the job was done, it read: "Assignment not completed."
It prompted no immediate action.
For the second straight night, the National Guard's heat-sensing helicopter sat on the tarmac in Salem, awaiting orders.
The next morning, Monday, Dec. 4, a snow cat began hacking its way down the logging road. It was about an hour away when Rachor returned to find the Kim family, farther down on the same road where he had spotted tire tracks the day before. Rubrecht said she didn't even know Rachor was in the air.
"I had no clue John Rachor was in the air until after Kati was found," she said. "No clue."
In fact, she said, "I really never felt like I had a handle on the air operation."
"I'm not afraid to tell anybody that it was overwhelming --beyond anything I'd ever handled before," she said.
Two days later, James Kim's body was found face up in Big Windy Creek. Rescuers believe that in his final hours, he walked through icy, neck-deep waters, soaked to the bone, and suffering from hypothermia in his effort to save his family.
State to sharpen search tools: The governor asks for a review of efforts to locate the Kims and seeks improved coordination
Saturday, Dec. 23, 2006
By Peter Sleeth and Michelle Cole
Gov. Ted Kulongoski ordered three state agencies Friday to review the search for James Kim and his family, and said he would appoint a task force to examine how to improve Oregon search and rescue efforts.
The governor stopped short of saying there were missteps in the eight-day search for the Kims, although an aide said the move was prompted by reports in The Oregonian and other news outlets that questioned whether searchers might have missed opportunities to focus their efforts and find the family more quickly.
"It is my hope that after we obtain the facts around this search effort, that we can come together -- state and local entities -- to review our respective roles and identify ways to strengthen our coordination, communication and search efforts," Kulongoski said in a statement.
James Kim, 35, of San Francisco died this month after he and his family became stranded on a remote logging road in Josephine County on the way to Gold Beach. His wife, Kati, 30, and daughters, Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months, were found not by searchers but by a private helicopter pilot acting on a hunch.
Rescuers learned on Saturday, Dec. 2, that cell phone "pings" placed the Kims in the vicinity of rugged Bear Camp Road, but there was initial confusion about how to interpret the data and where, precisely, to look. The family was rescued Monday, two days after James Kim had walked off to get help. Searchers found him Wednesday, Dec. 6, dead of hypothermia.
Kulongoski announced the review and task force plan Friday after meeting with officials from the Office of Oregon Emergency Management, the Oregon National Guard and Oregon State Police.
The governor wants the initial report describing the search on his desk by Jan. 5. Ken Murphy, director of the state emergency office, said it would not be a formal investigation with recommendations but instead would provide "the chronological events of who did what when" for study by the task force.
First the facts
The report will include information culled from Josephine and Curry counties, state police and other organizations involved, including the private contractors. The Kim family hired a helicopter company and private investigators who worked with San Francisco police and Oregon search and rescue officials.
Murphy said Friday's meeting with the governor did not focus on problems with the search.
"I think we want to see the facts before anybody would say there were any problems," he said. "When people are under a great amount of pressure to save somebody's life, people are tired and hungry and cold and wet this time of year, and mistakes can easily be made."
It will be up to the task force to identify problems or deficiencies with the Kim search, Murphy said. The group may also consider other rescues, including the recent attempt to locate three climbers on Mount Hood.
"There's a lot of speculation in the press right now and it's important to get the facts straight," said Anna Richter Taylor, Kulongoski's spokeswoman. "The governor's purpose is to broaden the discussion around the state's role in supporting local search and rescue efforts."
The Kim family could not be reached for comment Friday.
Kulongoski's move is not the first to put a spotlight on Oregon's search and rescue system, which, like 43 of the 50 states, bases primary responsibility with counties rather than a central state agency.
Six counties in Southwest Oregon are considering banding together in a regional search and rescue group as a result of both the Kim tragedy and the October disappearance of 8-year-old Samuel Boehlke of Portland, who was lost at Crater Lake National Park. His body was never found.
Sheriff's offices in Jackson, Klamath, Josephine, Coos, Curry and Douglas counties are in early stages of discussion, said Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters. The new organization might include federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, which manage vast holdings in the region.
State law requires each sheriff to provide resources for finding the hundreds of people who end up lost in Oregon every year. Typically, a county has a full- or part-time coordinator who oversees volunteers. But many searches cross county lines and federal-state jurisdictions and quickly become complex and expensive affairs.
The Kim and Boehlke searches involved spending tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of volunteer time. One big effort can cripple a county's search and rescue budget for the remainder of the year.
Although Jackson County has a relatively healthy search and rescue budget of $192,000 in 2006, more sparsely populated Grant County had a budget of $2,000.
"If I fall short, it comes out of my normal patrol budget," said Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer.
When searches cover multiple counties, gaps in communication can be crucial. The Oregon State Police took control of the Kim search for that reason. Yet, the state police has no resources dedicated to search and rescue. Even its planes lack heat-sensing radar that can locate lost people in the woods at night.
Sheriffs say the county-based system works well most of the time. In 2005, Oregon's busiest year on record, there were about 835 search and rescue missions, with about 49 fatalities, according to data kept by Oregon Emergency Management.
The weakness in the county system is variability. Some counties, like Hood River, Lane and Jackson, have extensive search and rescue capabilities. Other, less-populated counties rely on a handful of volunteers operating on razor-thin budgets.
In the case of James Kim, Josephine County had no helicopter of its own. A private chopper pilot who was not part of the official search eventually found Kati Kim and the children, acting on a hunch about their location.
The state office, with a budget of less than $100,000, plays a limited role, said George Kleinbaum, state search and rescue coordinator. His main function is to call the Oregon National Guard when needed.
"Something like having state oversight is going to have to involve more people," Kleinbaum said.
Kulongoski said last week that a closer partnership between the counties and state might be needed. It would be up to the Legislature to approve more funding, and the topic is almost certain to come up when lawmakers convene next month, said Rep. Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach.
Krieger is a member of the new Joint Committee on Emergency Preparedness and Ocean Policy.
"I think we need to bring in the sheriffs and the search and rescue people and ask what is it we need to do to allow people to climb mountains and pay the rescue bills," Krieger said. "Many of these counties are losing timber revenues. There might be some kind of funding mechanism statewide."
Two states in the West coordinate search and rescue at the state level: Alaska and New Mexico. James Newberry, search and rescue coordinator for New Mexico State Police, said central command averts conflicts.
"From my experience here in New Mexico, we can take a search and rescue volunteer from the northern part of the state and send them to the southern part of the state with no jurisdictional squabbling," Newberry said. "There is no bickering, no arguing about it."
Winters, the Jackson County sheriff whose helicopter aided in the Kim search, said regionalizing search and rescue in Southern Oregon could help bring "all kinds of resources and experience to the event and hopefully won't overtax any one organization."
Murphy, the Oregon emergency management director, said state officials aren't looking to take search and rescue responsibilities away from the counties.
"If they need additional help, then maybe that's the state's role to come in and assist," he said. "Are there other things we can do to help them that we aren't doing?"
Kulongoski spokeswoman Taylor said the governor is also concerned about the loss of federal payments to counties with large parcels of federal lands, for which no taxes are collected. The counties rely on those payments for search and rescue operations, Taylor said.
One additional topic for the task force to consider is how to make up for that lost federal money, she said.
Call about Kims handled routinely: A timeline discloses that a cell phone engineer called state police 24 hours earlier than thought
Jan. 6, 2007
By Peter Sleeth
A cell phone engineer whose sleuthing proved pivotal in the search for the Kim family in Southern Oregon received only a routine response when he first called an Oregon State Police dispatcher.
The engineer, Eric Fuqua, of Edge Wireless, said in the Dec. 1 call that he thought he could locate the family lost since Nov. 25 with cell phone technology.
"I appreciate your advice on this sir, but what we need is information on where they're at," the dispatcher said, according to a transcript obtained by The Oregonian. The dispatcher gave Fuqua the pager number of a Portland police detective involved in the search, thanked him and hung up.
Acting on his own the next day, Fuqua and a co-worker found the key clue with the help of Kim relatives, who provided the numbers of the three cell phones carried by the family. Fuqua then recontacted the state police that evening to pass on information about the Kims' last known location. This time, they took his number and forwarded it to detectives.
Fuqua's intervention ultimately reduced the search area from about 2,000 square miles to a narrow wedge of mountain terrain that included the remote logging road on which the Kims were snowbound.
A search timeline delivered Friday to Gov. Ted Kulongoski disclosed for the first time that Fuqua called state police Dec. 1, about 24 hours earlier than previously reported by police or company officials.
Lt. Gregg Hastings, a state police spokesman, said the initial call was properly handled.
"There wasn't any critical information at the time," he said. "It was very vague; it wasn't anything concrete at all. That is why they provided the pager number for the Portland detective."
Fuqua's first call came at a crucial moment, as James Kim, his wife and two daughters weathered their sixth night in the mountains. The next morning, Kim left his family on foot to get help. They were rescued three days later, but Kim, 35, died of hypothermia after wandering in the woods.
Kulongoski plans to appoint a task force to review the search. He had not read the timeline and had no comment on it as of Friday afternoon, his spokeswoman said. The Oregon State Sheriffs' Association also is reviewing the search and plans to release findings next week.
Also Friday, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., announced she had asked U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne to investigate why a gate was not locked to block the logging road onto which the Kims had mistakenly turned while headed to Gold Beach the evening of Nov. 25.
The Bureau of Land Management, an agency under Kempthorne, said earlier the gate should have been locked Nov 1. Employees didn't do so because they couldn't confirm that no one was trapped behind it.
Fuqua's early call to police is the most surprising detail to emerge with release of the timeline, which Kulongoski ordered after The Oregonian reported that the effort to find the San Francisco family last month was marred by communication gaps, confusion and missed opportunities.
Fuqua has consistently declined comment about precisely when he contacted authorities. Edge Wireless officials previously have said Fuqua did not approach police until Saturday, Dec. 2. Kim's wife, Kati, 30, and daughters, Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months, were found Dec. 4.
Fuqua and Edge Wireless executives did not return calls Friday.
A transcript of the Dec. 1 call shows that Fuqua identified himself as an engineer for a cellular system in Oregon. The dispatcher asked Fuqua some questions:
Dispatcher: "You have information of where they're at? . . ."
Fuqua: "I do not have that information, but I think I know where to find it. They were driving on the coast near Gold Beach. There's uh . . . cellular . . . cell sites . . . all up and down there."
Dispatcher: "Right now all we're taking is just people that have had contact with them. But if you have advice or a better way of doing it, call that number."
Fuqua: "I believe I do. Can you give me that number again please?"
Tips pouring in
Hastings said Fuqua was given the pager number because a Portland detective was handling leads from cell phones and credit cards. At the time, dozens of tips were pouring in from a missing persons alert.
The next day, Fuqua called state police at 5:49 p.m., saying he had information about the exact time of the Kims' last cell phone transmission, and that it was within 26 miles of the company's Glendale cell tower in the direction of the "mountains going toward the coast."
The Portland detective, Michael Weinstein, wrote in a report that the first contact he received about Fuqua came that evening. Weinstein passed that information to state police, and by the next morning, searchers were meeting with Fuqua and poring over maps he provided highlighting areas of cell coverage.
Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger, who is heading the sheriffs' association inquiry, said the decision by the state police dispatcher to refer Fuqua to Portland police probably was the right call.
"Would there have been a better call? Yeah, probably," Evinger said. "But if you've ever been in a 9-1-1 or dispatch center during a high call volume time, you're looking for the next rollover, with people trapped in it, on the next line that's ringing."
Kim search drifted into agency morass: With 10 agencies involved, questions bristled about who was in charge -- and when
Monday, Jan. 8, 2007
By Steve Suo and Peter Sleeth
The Kim family of San Francisco was stranded in late November not only in the Oregon wilds, but in a bureaucratic no-man's land in which 10 government agencies took up uncoordinated and sometimes conflicting positions.
No central command ran the search until at least four days after the Kims were reported missing, making it hard to judge the value of clues that were pouring from tipsters and the results of searches on the ground.
Newly released Oregon State Police reports assert that the Josephine County Sheriff's Office, which by law is responsible for search and rescue operations in the county where the family was found, had decided the Kims were not there and was prepared to stop searching. Only an intervention by state police commanders revived interest.
The question of who was in charge and when is now at the center of an exhaustive investigation into the Kim search that is tentatively due late this week. Findings are likely to influence a task force that Gov. Ted Kulongoski has said he will appoint to review Oregon's search and rescue system in the wake of the Kims' saga.
Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger, who is leading an investigation for the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association, said analysts are examining "tipping points" that might have changed the outcome of the search. Organizational charts will identify bottlenecks that blocked the rapid flow of information, including critical data from a cell phone engineer who mapped the Kims' general location.
"We intend to include a chart of what it looked like," Evinger said, "and, in a perfect world, that it could have looked like 'this' and could have been better."
James Kim, 35, and wife Kati, 30, were driving with their two daughters from Portland to Gold Beach on the Oregon Coast, heading home from a Thanksgiving road trip. The Kims turned onto a logging spur off Bear Camp Road, which runs from Josephine County to the coast, and became stuck in the snow.
Kati Kim and daughters Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months, were found safe five days after they were reported missing. James Kim had left on foot two days earlier, got lost in the woods and died of hypothermia.
Under Oregon law, the county sheriff runs searches for drivers, hikers and boaters lost in remote areas. The sheriff sets up a command center with centralized communications.
But the dragnet for the Kims sprawled across Lane, Coos, Curry, Douglas and Josephine counties. Klamath County sent volunteers. San Francisco and Portland police did detective work to follow the Kims' financial records. The Oregon State Police fielded tips from the public. The National Guard sent a helicopter.
Plans exist for ensuring such disparate agencies work as one unit during emergencies such as a terrorist attack or flood. But such a system was slow to kick in during the Kim search.
Les Miller, past president of the Oregon Emergency Management Association, said the Kim case suggests the need for legislation that puts the state in immediate control during searches that cross multiple boundaries.
"If you know that they're in your jurisdiction, then it is your local emergency," said Miller, who is also emergency manager for the Portland District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "But if you don't know that they're in your local jurisdiction, you don't know you have an emergency.
"The challenge becomes, 'Who at the next higher level will become the incident commander, to pull all of the other jurisdictions together?' "
In an emergency, police, firefighters and paramedics have a tool to slice through bureaucratic tangles.
Known as "incident command," the system emerged in the West in the 1970s to manage big forest fires. Now, use of the incident-command system is standard on events ranging from hurricanes to oil spills.
A central precept is that emergency workers dispense with acronyms to avoid confusion. The first person on the scene remains in charge, unless someone with more training arrives. There is a standard organizational chart, but anyone present can fill the positions, regardless of their agency affiliation.
"It's something where you can bring together people from different disciplines who may not work together every day," said Rose Gentry, president of the Oregon Emergency Management Association. "It clearly makes it known who is going to be in charge, who is going to delegate what to whom."
Miller said the idea is to ensure many bits of information are channeled to a central commander, who can decide what is important and ensure a rapid response.
Setting up an incident command system is automatic in an emergency. But in a missing persons investigation like the Kims', deciding when to unify the command is a tougher call.
Typically, the trigger point comes when enough clues point to at least a rough location, said Clackamas County sheriff's Deputy John Gibson, a search and rescue specialist.
"We get calls like this all the time," Gibson said. " 'Hey, can you go up, and can you try to find my family? They're overdue.' "
If the family's planned destination was nothing more specific than " Mount Hood National Forest," Gibson said, he tells callers, "Well, I'm sorry. There's not a whole lot we can do for you because that's a huge forest."
Command unifies slowly
In the Kim case, detective work and the process of scouring mountain roads occurred simultaneously. No single agency or person was responsible for both evaluating and acting on all the incoming information.
The Kims' housesitter reported them missing Wednesday, Nov. 29, two days after they were due home and four days after they became stranded on a remote logging road.
Multiple agencies fanned out across all routes from Interstate 5 to the Oregon Coast. James Kim's father hired private helicopters. But searchers did not begin forming a central command until Sunday, Dec. 3.
Reports by four Oregon State Police officials involved in the search suggest the delay was due, in part, to conflicting opinions about how and when to narrow the search area.
State police Lt. Brian Powers described his reaction the evening of Dec. 2 when Eric Fuqua, an employee of Edge Wireless, reported finding a "ping" on the Kims' cell phones from a tower near the town of Glendale.
Powers said he considered the discovery a breakthrough.
"Based on the new information, the family's reported destination and previous people that had been lost on Bear Camp Road, I was confident that the missing family was lost somewhere on Bear Camp Road and could include counties of Coos, Curry, Josephine or Douglas," Powers' report said.
But he said Sara Rubrecht, the Josephine County emergency services manager, told him the county was calling off its search. Crews had driven up Bear Camp Road and decided the Kims were not there, he wrote.
State police Detective Deanna Harris, who met with Powers that evening, said he told her he "was not sure who the lead agency was on the investigation."
The next day Powers told Rubrecht and Undersheriff Brian Anderson he wanted to call in search teams from neighboring Jackson County to help re-canvass Bear Camp Road, which they had already cleared.
"Rubrecht and Undersheriff Anderson received this request with some resistance," Powers said. They agreed, on the condition that Powers take charge of coordinating the Jackson County effort.
The Josephine County Sheriff's Office has declined to comment until the sheriffs' association completes its investigation.
That evening, Powers called state police Major Dan Durbin and told him he wanted to call a meeting with every agency involved. It was still unclear, Powers told Durbin, which areas had been searched and which had not.
Forming a central command sooner might have helped clarify critical communications about the family's location, documents suggest.
Fuqua, the wireless engineer, first called the state police tip line on Friday, Dec. 1, saying he thought he could track the Kims' cell phone. He called again the next day and eventually told Portland police Detective Mike Weinstein he had discovered data on the phone's last contact with a cell tower.
Weinstein said Fuqua had used a "probability program" to narrow the phone's location, based on the tower's coverage area and the fact that no other tower in the area registered a hit. Fuqua concluded that the Kims' phone had been "in the vicinity of Bear Camp Road, a considerable distance west of Interstate 5."
Weinstein said he quickly related this description to state police Detective David Steele, who was running the tip line in Salem. But Steele, in his report, remembers hearing something quite different.
The cell phone tower -- not the Kims' phone -- was "near the top of Bear Camp Road," Steele wrote, reversing the antenna's location with where it pointed. He forwarded the erroneous information to searchers in Southern Oregon, records show.
Despite the miscommunication, state police officials decided to reopen the search on Bear Camp Road the next day.
A day after that, a private helicopter pilot acting on his own found Kati Kim and her daughters.
Kim pilot disputes copter complaint: A statement from the victim's father lists 4 issues, including media interference
Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2007
By David R. Anderson
Media aircraft created dangerous conditions for rescue helicopters and hindered the search for James Kim, who died last month after being lost in the Oregon wilderness, Kim's father said in a newspaper commentary.
But a helicopter pilot hired by Kim's family said Monday that was not the case. Searchers never stopped their efforts because of the media presence as Spencer Kim claims, said Steve Metheny, vice president of Carson Helicopter Services Inc.
"We really never had an actual situation where media helicopters or people flying got in the way," said Metheny, who flew a search helicopter seven days looking for James Kim. "It never really became an issue."
James Kim was found dead by searchers Dec. 6. He had gone looking for help after being stuck with his wife and two children for nearly a week with their snowbound car west of Grants Pass. Kati Kim and her two daughters were found alive Dec. 4 by a private helicopter pilot acting on his own suspicions about their location.
In an opinion piece published over the weekend in The Washington Post, Spencer Kim outlined four contributing factors to his son's death. Three of them have been publicized -- an unlocked gate that allowed the Kim family access to a logging road, a delay in getting credit card information and confusion among public agencies during the early stages of the Kims' missing person investigation.
But Spencer Kim also asserted that the Federal Aviation Administration allowed media aircraft too close to the search area. As a result, he said, rescue helicopters stopped searching one afternoon.
During the search, Spencer Kim appealed to U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., for help. Sherman's office contacted the FAA. As a result, the federal agency placed a temporary flight restriction around the search area, said Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman in Washington, D.C.
Brown, contacted after business hours Monday, did not have the details of the restrictions.
Metheny said media aircraft followed the restrictions and never interfered. "It was more of a preventive measure rather than actually having a problem," he said.
Spencer Kim hired Carson Helicopter to help with the search, but it was a private pilot, John Rachor, who found Kati Kim and daughters Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months. Helicopters from the Oregon National Guard and Jackson County also participated at times.
Separately Monday, state Rep. John Lim, R-Gresham, introduced legislation inspired by the Kim search and the search for three climbers lost on Mount Hood. The lawmaker wants to create a state fund to help pay liability insurance and workers' compensation so more people can volunteer for rescues, stiffen penalties for tampering with signs marking a closed road, allow families access to credit card and phone records in emergencies and require climbers on Mount Hood to carry locator beacons.
Conflicts, confusion undermine search: The state sheriffs' group cites leadership and coordination problems
Friday, Jan. 19, 2007
By Steve Suo, Peter Sleeth and Elizabeth Suh
The search for the Kim family in Southern Oregon's rugged mountain country last month was marred by personality conflicts, confusion and poor communication, according to an official investigation into the search effort released Thursday.
The report by the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association found searchers often had little idea who was running things. Some told investigators that they "were inserted into the search, removed and then asked to go back in what seemed like conflicting orders without explanation."
Ground crews and pilots were using two different map coordinate systems. Failure to share information led helicopters to cover the same ground twice. And a history of clashes between the Josephine County and Jackson County search leaders hampered the effort, the report said.
One search manager told investigators that "nobody was keeping track of searchers in the field, nor were they debriefed when their assignments were completed."
James Kim, 35, and wife Kati, 30, were driving with their two daughters from Portland to Gold Beach on Nov. 25 on the return leg of a Thanksgiving vacation. The San Francisco couple turned onto a logging spur off Bear Camp Road, which runs from Josephine County to the Oregon Coast, and became stuck in the snow.
A house-sitter didn't report the family missing until four days later. Searchers found Kati Kim and daughters Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months, safe at the family car on Dec. 4. The body of James Kim, who had left the car for help, was found Dec. 6. He had died of hypothermia after trekking into a steep canyon.
The sheriffs' investigation was requested by Josephine County after The Oregonian reported that miscues and miscommunication had impeded the search for the Kims. The report now goes to Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who is expected today to announce a task force to study search and rescue in Oregon.
Clash between leaders
The report takes pains not to assign blame and says the issues identified by investigators "did not affect timelines" in the search for the Kims. But the problems described in the report are numerous.
Among them was a clash between search leaders in Josephine County, where the Kims ultimately were found, and neighboring Jackson County, which offered to help in the search.
Josephine County Search Coordinator Sara Rubrecht had a history of conflict with Pat Rowland, the Jackson County rescue manager, investigators said. The conflict may have interfered with communication.
A standardized command structure created to respond to large-scale emergencies -- known in the world of emergency management as "incident command" -- was only used "in a limited manner," the report says. "There was frequent confusion as to who was in the position of incident commander."
Oregon State Police Lt. Brian Powers and Josephine County Undersheriff Brian Anderson both served as incident commanders, the report said. But when rescuers were recovering James Kim's body, a voice came on the radio from someone in the field to announce he was "assuming command."
As an example of the disarray, the report said the command center at one time shut down for the day while teams were in the field searching.
"Those in management positions were rapidly overwhelmed by the scope of the mission, media attention and exhaustion," the report said.
Disputed phone call
The report disputes that Anderson, the undersheriff, ignored a Dec. 2 phone call from Rubrecht, who was calling to say that the Kims' cell phone "ping" had been located.
In previous interviews with The Oregonian, Rubrecht has said she made the call, and Anderson has said he received one while watching a football game and ignored it. Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger, who led the sheriffs' association investigation, said Thursday that Anderson received a call from a dispatcher informing him that Powers was trying to reach him and Rubrecht.
Evinger said Anderson did not return Powers' call and instead Anderson gave the dispatcher his cell phone number.
Information about the cell phone ping proved instrumental in helping officials narrow the search to the area around Bear Camp Road. The report said that, in hindsight, state and county officials could have acted more quickly upon learning about the information the evening of Dec. 2, from an engineer at Edge Wireless.
"Daylight is a precious commodity for search and rescue operations," the report said. "In retrospect, it would have saved valuable time and daylight" had officials met with (engineer Eric) Fuqua that night.
The report recommended more training for law enforcement in how to make use of cell phone records to locate missing persons.
Gil Gilbertson, the newly elected sheriff of Josephine County, said at a news conference that he planned to address all of the problems cited in the report. Gilbertson was not in office at the time of the search.
"There's a litany of things in the back pages that need to be fixed, corrected and modified," Gilbertson said, "and we will do that."
Kati Kim retraces tragic journey: A review of the search reveals missteps but also the resourcefulness of a couple trying to survive Oregon's wilderness
Friday, Jan. 19, 2007
By Michelle Roberts
In the hours before James Kim departed on a fatal quest for help, the stress of being lost for seven nights on a snowy mountain logging road had gotten to his wife, Kati.
Kati Kim was angry at her husband for "getting the family into the predicament they were in." Her two children were surviving on melted snow, breast milk and tiny rations of baby food. Her husband had turned to eating the berries out of bear excrement in order to "save food for the babies."
As James Kim left on foot on a last-ditch bid to save his family, he had a "wild look in his eyes," Kati Kim recalled.
It was the last time she would see her husband alive.
Kati Kim's account, as related to law enforcement officials, was the most dramatic new information in a new evaluation Thursday of the search for the Kim family. It offers a new understanding of how the Kims and their daughters, Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months, became stranded --and what the ordeal was like.
Until now, the Kims ill-fated trip into rugged terrain has been seen as a series of blunders by an urban family who had little understanding of the dangers of the outdoors. But Kati Kim's account makes clear that their plight resulted from a succession of seemingly logical decisions and that the family was resourceful as it repeatedly tried to attract the attention of rescuers flying just a few hundred feet above their heads.
Kati Kim and the children were eventually rescued Dec. 4 after nearly nine days on the Southern Oregon logging road. But searchers were unable to locate James Kim before he succumbed to hypothermia in a steep canyon.
The San Francisco family's saga --how they missed a freeway exit driving from Portland to Gold Beach and ended up on rugged Bear Camp Road --became a national story last month. But Kati Kim has declined interview requests. Oregon State Sheriffs' Association investigators interviewed her at length about the ordeal on Monday, the report said.
According to the report, the Kims didn't leave Portland until 5 p.m. Nov. 25 after a day of shopping in Northwest Portland. From the car, Kati Kim made a reservation at the Tu Tu Tun Lodge near Gold Beach.
After missing their exit near Roseburg, the Kims pulled out an Oregon map that showed a "straight shot" to the coast, Kati Kim told investigators. Her husband stopped at a gas station.
"James came back to the car frustrated," Kati Kim told investigators. "He thought that the attendant gave 'strange directions' and that the man was acting like he didn't understand what James was asking." The attendant "definitely didn't communicate that it was a dangerous route," she said.
It was dark, but not raining or snowing, when the couple started down Bear Camp Road, which leads over the Coast Range to Gold Beach. She said they tracked their whereabouts with the map and road signs, at one point spotting a snowplow beside the road. Kati Kim "made a mental note" that the road must be used and maintained.
The couple came upon a hill that took them into more snow and a sign that read, "Road May be Blocked by Snowdrifts 6 Miles Ahead." It was the first hint the road wasn't frequently traveled, Kati Kim said.
As they drove past the sign, it began to snow. Before long, they encountered deep snow.
James Kim wanted to turn around. But Kati Kim thought it was too dangerous: The road was too narrow, it was too dark, and there was a steep drop-off on either side.
Kati Kim remembers that her husband opened the driver's door of the car and "carefully backed down the road to the intersection below the warning sign." At this point, the couple tried to call 9-1-1 on all three cell phones they were carrying. None could get a signal.
Deeper into trouble
It began to snow harder. So the couple decided to take the road that appeared to drop to a lower elevation and out of the snow zone.
Unknown to the Kims, this was a logging spur that wound deep into the hills toward the Rogue River. Usually locked by a gate in the winter, it had been mistakenly left open by the Bureau of Land Management.
Around 2 a.m., the Kims knew they were in trouble. They parked their car at a "T" intersection, thinking a plow might come by that night or by morning.
It was raining when they awoke. The Kims knew they would have to travel back through the snow zone to get back out, Kati said. They were low on gas, so they chose to stay put and conserve what was left for heat.
The Kims believed they could hear snowplows at work nearby and that "a ranger would be along soon," the report said. The sound, they later deduced, was the roar of the Rogue River.
After day broke Nov. 26, the couple found an open gate near where they had parked. In crayon, James Kim wrote a note that said: "Low on Gas, Low on Food, 2 Babies." He put it in a Ziploc bag and stuck it to the fence.
No one came, and the Kims spent their first full night parked on the road.
They awoke Nov. 27 to a heavy snowfall. Kati Kim told investigators she made a survival plan that included rationing the food -- baby food and rice cereal -- so it would last two weeks "even if it meant one mouthful a day." She put snow into bottles and warmed them in the sun for drinking water. She breast-fed the two girls.
The Kims agreed to three rules: No getting wet. No getting hurt. No getting sick.
Hours turned into days. The couple honked the car horn often and yelled to the sky for help. They stomped out "SOS" in the snow. They talked about who might report them missing.
After four days, the couple were studying the Oregon map in their car. That's when they noticed "a tiny box" up in the corner of the map, Kim said. It read: "Not all Roads Advisable, Check Weather Conditions."
Tires set afire
On Thursday, Nov. 30, the car ran out of gas. The couple decided to burn the spare tire in hopes of signaling help. James Kim punctured the tire and tossed it onto the fire. The next day, they took two tires off their car and burned them. Then they threw on the two remaining tires and anything else to create the blackest smoke possible.
The second signal fire had just "fizzled" out when they heard a helicopter. She said her husband "frantically tried to relight the fire hoping those in the helicopter might see it." But everything was too wet.
Kati Kim describes that Friday afternoon -- as dusk descended on the fifth day of their ordeal -- as one of the "toughest moments" they faced. They were hungry, cold, tired and beginning to give up hope.
The next morning, Kati Kim said, tempers flared.
She had been angry at her husband for getting the family lost, and he wanted to set out for help. She said she didn't want him to leave, but he insisted.
"James left us with the belief that there was a town called Galice only about four miles from our camp," she told investigators.
Kati Kim remembers that he left at "exactly 7:46" Saturday morning and planned to return by 1 p.m.
The next day, Sunday, Katie Kim tried to carry her children back to civilization. She said she strapped them on her body and walked for about 21/2 hours before she turned back, too weak to carry them anymore.
She heard the chop of a helicopter that day, and then again the next day, on Monday, Dec. 4. She started signaling with the car's vanity mirror. As she did, the helicopter came closer and closer until it started circling.
She put down the mirror and started waving a pink umbrella. She said that almost immediately two more helicopters "swooped" in and started dropping food.
Within 10 minutes, a helicopter landed nearby and loaded her and the girls for their ride to safety.
It was then that she learned they had not found James Kim.
Two more days passed. James Kim had worn a watch when he left the car so he would know when it was time to come back, Kati Kim said. Searchers recovered it later and returned it to her, she said.
By then, it had stopped.
Kim case reveals gap in search know-how: A report urges more training on using cell phone signals to track missing people
Saturday, Jan. 20. 2007
By Steve Suo and Elizabeth Suh
The search for the missing Kim family of San Francisco revealed a problem that could arise in any of the 800,000 missing persons cases opened nationwide each year: Many detectives don't understand how to follow clues left by a person's cell phone.
Your cell phone continues to silently communicate with your wireless network even when you are not talking. The phone sends signals to the nearest cellular tower so that your phone company knows where to route an incoming call. If you roam onto someone else's network, your provider is alerted.
Some providers retain this information even after you have lost a signal, providing a trail that might help rescuers find you when you can't call 9-1-1.
This information proved pivotal in the Kim family search, but it only came to light because two phone workers in Southern Oregon volunteered to find it. Detectives in San Francisco, by their own admission, failed to ask the kind of questions that could have led them to the Kims' last electronic signal.
Kati Kim and the couple's two young daughters were found safe Dec. 4 after being stranded for nearly nine days in the snowy woods of Josephine County, and James Kim's body was found two days later.
An Oregon State Sheriffs' Association report released this week recommends training investigators to ask cellular providers not just for the location of the person's last call, but also for the last, electronic "handshake" between cell phone and tower.
"This is emerging technology," said Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger, who led the review of the Kim search. "We need to learn the terminology of what to ask for."
Cell phone providers have a number of ways to locate the phones of customers who might be in distress.
Global positioning system technology, available on most new phones, allows dispatchers to precisely locate callers who dial 9-1-1.
If the phone is within range of a cellular antenna but no one is answering, police can ask a phone company to send a "ping" to the phone to determine its distance and direction from the antenna.
But what happens in the case of people whose cell phone batteries have died or who moved out of cellular range? There may still be clues to where they were when their phones stopped working.
Cellular companies, of course, keep computerized records of incoming and outgoing calls and text messages for billing purposes. But phones also silently connect with the network for the purpose of routing phone calls. Companies call this "registering."
"The phone is basically every 30 seconds emitting a signal making its handshake or just communicating back to the cell site and saying, 'Here I am,' " said Andre Cunningham, area manager for wireless solutions consulting at Sprint Nextel.
Although the handshake information is not important for billing purposes, Cunningham said, Sprint Nextel records the information and can retrieve it if necessary.
"We're not collecting that information and sitting on that information, but it is something that can be accessed through one of our network hubs," he said.
The network also notes when a phone roams out of the provider's territory.
The Kims' phones
Not all law enforcement officials are thoroughly familiar with the technology, the Kim case showed.
James and Kati Kim of San Francisco blogged regularly on the Internet and between them carried three cellular telephones. He earned a living with his online reviews of new technology.
Inspector Angela Martin, the San Francisco police detective assigned to find the Kims when they disappeared in November, works in a department where most employees do not have work computers or e-mail accounts, said her supervisor, Capt. Marsha Ashe. Martin writes her reports out longhand, Ashe said.
Ashe said Martin called the Kims' cellular provider, Cingular Wireless, within hours of being handed the case.
Martin asked for the location of the last phone call made or received. It was the early afternoon of Nov. 25, a time when Kati Kim later said the family was still in Portland. According to Ashe, Martin then asked whether Cingular detected the phones after the last call, to which the representative said no.
What Martin did not ask, Ashe said, was whether the phones may have wandered into the territory of another company's cell towers. Investigators in San Francisco's dense urban setting hadn't encountered the issue before, Ashe said. "It's just something that doesn't occur to us," she said.
Michael Broom, a Cingular spokesman, said Friday that he could not comment on the conversation between Cingular and Martin. But Broom said, "We're always committed to working with and supporting law enforcement in situations like this, particularly if a person's life is at risk, and would do whatever we possibly could to try to assist."
As it turned out, the Kims' phones had roamed outside Cingular's network.
About 1:30 a.m. Nov. 26, the night that the couple became stranded, one of their phones made a connection with an antenna along Interstate 5 belonging to Edge Wireless, which serves Cingular customers passing through Southern Oregon.
Had Martin known the Kims had traveled into Edge's territory, she could have asked Edge for any activity on the Kims' phones --either calls or silent handshakes.
Two days after Martin queried Cingular, employees Eric Fuqua and Noah Pugsley of Edge voluntarily contacted Kim relatives, obtained the family's phone numbers, tracked their final transmissions and went to police.
The information enabled authorities to dramatically narrow the search area. In the end, the Kims were found close to where Fuqua predicted they might be: near Bear Camp Road in Josephine County.
Ashe said the value of cell phone technology is "significant" in a missing persons case, "and we do need to know how to use it better."
She said she supported Evinger's call for more training and said her investigators are now armed with better questions to ask cell phone companies.
Mark Siegel, a spokesman for Cingular, said in a December interview that Cingular's networks track customers' phones down to a particular cellular tower and note when a phone has roamed off Cingular's network. But Siegel would not say whether this information is logged, and he would not comment on the Kim case.
Kim disputes part of sheriffs' report
Saturday, Jan. 20, 2007
By Michelle Roberts and Noelle Crombie
Kati Kim said Friday that a report by the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association inaccurately quoted her as saying her husband, James, had eaten berries scavenged from bear droppings while her family struggled to survive in a Southern Oregon forest.
Kim told The Oregonian that rescue officials who debriefed her misunderstood what she told them. She said the incident, prominently mentioned in The Oregonian's Friday story about the sheriffs' inquiry, "absolutely did not occur."
Kati Kim, 30, and James Kim, 35, and their two young children were stranded in the snow on a remote Josephine County logging road for more than a week after taking a wrong turn on the way to Gold Beach. Kati Kim and her daughters were rescued last month, but James Kim died of hypothermia after leaving his family to seek help.
The sheriffs' report cited an interview Kati Kim had Dec. 4, the day she was rescued, with Josephine and Douglas county officials. According to the report, Kim "advised that during the time they were stranded they did not have much food and at one point James Kim was eating the berries out of bear scat."
Kim told The Oregonian that the report was wrong. She said the couple examined bear droppings to see what berries might be safe for human consumption. She said her husband ate berries from bushes nearby.
Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger, who oversaw the investigation, issued a clarification Friday.
Kim has avoided talking with reporters about what happened to her and her family but told The Oregonian she wanted to make sure the public record was correct.
"I am a very private person," she said, adding that she was in a rush to walk her daughter to school Friday morning. "I am trying to adjust to being a single mother."
Gate to tragedy was locked open: The BLM investigates who placed a lock preventing the road from being closed
Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007
By Peter Sleeth
A steel gate on the road that led the Kim family to their fate in November was supposed to be closed year-round, but someone used an unauthorized lock to keep it in the open position, according to a report released Tuesday.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management installed the gate in December 2004 to stop people from heading down the road. Too many people were getting lost, confusing it with Bear Camp Road, a backwoods route to the Oregon Coast.
Yet someone unlocked the gate in early 2006 and kept it open with a non-government combination lock.
At least three BLM employees noticed the gate open over the course of last year but they didn't close it because they were either prevented by the lock or they didn't know if anyone was up the road and might get locked in, the report said.
The BLM has begun a criminal investigation to determine who put the lock in place, said BLM spokesman Michael Campbell.
"That was one of the pieces we still want to verify," he said. "How that got on there and who put it on there." He declined to comment further on the investigation.
The BLM's "management review" was intended to determine whether anyone in the federal agency violated policies in leaving the gate open. The report concluded no BLM employee failed to carry out any specific order.
Rather, the gate remained open due to a variety of on-site judgments made by employees who didn't know or were unsure about the closure policy for the road, Campbell said.
The issue is crucial because if the gate had been properly closed, the Kim family might have been forced back toward civilization the night of Nov. 25. Instead, the Kims turned onto BLM Road 34-8-36 in a 21-mile mistake that left them stranded.
The family disappeared as they drove to Gold Beach from Merlin, just north of Grants Pass off Interstate 5. Kati Kim, 30, and daughters Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months, were found Dec. 4 with the car after being stuck in the snow for nine days with few supplies.
James Kim, 35, was found dead two days later in a creek. He had walked more than 16 miles in the cold and snow in a futile effort to get help.
Kati Kim declined comment Tuesday. Spencer Kim, James' father, was unavailable for comment.
In 2006, the BLM was in the process of starting a new system for monitoring and maintaining its gates in the Medford district, Campbell said.
The BLM opens and closes gates during the year for a variety of reasons, ranging from logging to hunting to protecting wildlife habitat.
The agency has 562 gates and more than 5,000 miles of roads to monitor in parts of Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties. The BLM ordered new signs in September to augment four existing signs warning people of dangers in trying to cross the mountain on Bear Camp Road in the winter.
Lessons learned from the Kim tragedy, the BLM said, included the need to improve communication between maintenance workers and law enforcement staff, to increase law enforcement patrols along area roads and to work more closely with other agencies that might have concerns about road access.
Campbell said the report will be incorporated into research being done by a task force on how to improve search and rescue operations ordered by Gov. Ted Kulongoski.
-- The Oregonian
Source : http://www.oregonlive.com/editors/index.ssf/2013/04/kim_familys_fatal_oregon_journ.html