UPDATE 9th Dec 2006 12:19pm – Vandal cut lock on gate blocking road where Kims stranded. However they drove past numerous signs warning that the road may be blocked by falling snow.
UPDATE 8th Dec 2006 9:32am – Post-mortem analysis of events and James Kim’s cause of death
James Kim, an editor for CNet was found dead in the wilderness of Oregon, two days after his wife and two children had been found; 11 days after their initial disappearance from a Thanksgiving road trip. This story would have been unremarkable if not for the fact that James was known to those who are familiar with CNet and TechTV (now G4TV) where he had served as a presenter. That is to say that he was well known to a sizable portion of the tech community, and when news first broke of the family’s disappearance, it spread like wildfire across tech blogs and news sites.
An article from the San Francisco Chronicle outlines the combination of bad luck and what I think was a series of bad decisions which got the Kim family stuck on a narrow and slippery country road, in the dark and in freezing temperatures.
Though they did a few things right:
- running the car’s heaters until they ran out of fuel,
- sticking shiny tape on an umbrella as a beacon,
- burning the car’s tyres for warmth and to attract attention, and
- wife Kati breast feeding the children when their food ran out.
But, James made the fatal mistake of leaving their car to go search for help. He was wearing a few layers of street clothes and sneakers, and no hat to conserve body heat. He was not going to last long in the cold rugged terrain. And for some reason, he did not retrace his way back on the side road, and back onto the main road. However we cannot presume what was going through his mind after waiting for 9 days without any signs of rescue. Perhaps he was desperate by then and decided to do what he thought was best for his family.
Still, as this commenter on Digg summarised it:
What would i have done differenly? Well for starters I would never had decided to take a shortcut through the mountains in an area im not familiar through terrible weather in the middle of the night with a woman and 2 children in my automobile that wasnt a SUV or 4×4 and was hardly equipped for that kind of traveling. Secondly, why in the hell are you going to pull over and “ride” out the weather overnight instead of simply turning around and carefully driving back the 55 miles you had already travelled? Everything they did was stupid, especially given the fact that they had small children. I can understand taking these kind of risks If I were alone or with a group of guys (which i have done) but never would i try silly shit like this with my wife and kids.
And he does make sense, in light of what Kati Kim had said about having to get out of the car to remove rocks from the road at one stage. If I had come across rocks on a dark and unfamiliar road, I would have turned around immediately and not try to push on. Had I missed a turn whilst traveling on a highway late at night in the dark, I would have drove on and stopped at the next rest stop, petrol station or motel. And then continue on after a night’s rest.
Hindsight is 20-20. It was very fortunate that Jame’s wife Kati and children Penelope and Sabine were found. It is tragic that James did not survive the ordeal. Hopefully the lessons learnt from this will prevent another unnecessary death.
And I strongly advise those who’d contemplate going country or off-road driving do proper research, especially in Australia. I found this site to be quite excellent:
The “Real” Australian Outback – An Outback Australia Travel Guide
Even though it’s specific to Australia, I think that had James gleamed some of that knowledge, he would probably still be alive today. RIP, James Kim.
[tags]James Kim, driving, travel, survival[/tags]