Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006, James Kim, a 35-year-old San
Francisco technical writer, was found dead in the Rogue
Wilderness of southwestern Oregon. He was wearing tennis
shoes and light clothing. A coroner ruled that he died of
hypothermia; in plainer English, James Kim froze to death.
days earlier, in the early morning hours of Sunday, Nov. 26,
Mr. Kim had gotten lost in the Rogue while driving toward a
luxury resort near Gold Beach, a coastal town just north of
the California border. In the car with him were his
30-year-old wife, Kati, and their seven-month-old and
the morning of Saturday, Dec. 2, after the family had been
stranded on a remote logging road for six days, James Kim set
off in search of help. The others stayed behind, and on
Monday, Dec. 4 they were rescued and brought to safety. The
search continued for James Kim, and on Dec. 6 his body was
found floating in a shallow area of the Big Windy Creek.
questioned Mrs. Kim after they rescued her and her children.
Elements of her account were passed to the media, whose heavy
coverage of the case had focused on their Kims’ ordeal
rather than their misjudgments. In early December, the
Portland Oregonian, the state’s largest
newspaper, alleged that the search and rescue (“SAR”)
effort had been botched.
newspaper’s allegations led the Oregon governor and the
Oregon State Sheriff’s Association to investigate the SAR operation,
the latter organization becoming involved at the
request of the Josephine County sheriff’s office, the
principal target of the Oregonian’s criticism.
The governor’s office released a timeline of official
actions on Jan. 5, 2007, and the Sheriff’s Association
released its report two weeks later.
unusual attention to this tragedy triggered conversations
about personal responsibility, public safety, government
policies and Search and Rescue (“SAR”) management
and procedures. This web site, draws on a variety of publicly available sources, including
official reports, media accounts and website postings. I
examined the participants and their actions, and
the other factors that figured in the events. I reconciled
conflicting accounts when possible, and highlighted what gaps
remain. I have done so without fear or favor, hoping to help
prevent similar tragedies in Oregon and elsewhere.