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For the last week the tabloid TV shows and print media have been fixated on the tragic tale of James and Kati Kim, who were stuck in their car for nine days in a remote, snowy part of the Oregon Coast Range. Kati, 30, and the couple's two young daughters were finally rescued; James, unfortunately, was not: he died of exposure trying to hike out to safety. "Hero Father," went the headline on the Larry King Show, which devoted an hour to the Kims and other "miraculous survival" stories. " "Hero Dad" was the headline on most accounts of the ordeal. Even Kati Kim's father said, "He's a very heroic father." Well, I don't mean to cast aspersions on the dead, and I certainly don't want to add to the burdens of Kati Kim, who now faces raising two daughters on her own. But James Kim was no hero.

What Does ‘Hero’ Really Mean?

For the last week the tabloid TV shows and print media have been fixated on the tragic tale of James and Kati Kim, who were stuck in their car for nine days in a remote, snowy part of the Oregon Coast Range. Kati, 30, and the couple’s two young daughters were finally rescued; James, 35, unfortunately, was not: he died of exposure trying to hike out to safety.

“Hero Father,” went the headline on the Larry King Show, which devoted an hour to the Kims and other “miraculous survival” stories. ” “Hero Dad” was the headline on most accounts of the ordeal. Even Kati Kim’s father said, “He’s a very heroic father.”

Well, I don’t mean to cast aspersions on the dead, and I certainly don’t want to add to the burdens of Kati Kim, who now faces raising two daughters on her own. But James Kim was no hero.

In some ways the Kim story reminds me of the Jon Krakauer book 2006-12-13

About Richard Martin

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  1. well, you’ve been driving on that road for 15 years, James Kim drove on that road for the first time, how would he know it’s dangerous? Remember James is from California, where roads are generally well-marked, well-maintained, well-travelled and in good condition. Until the James Kim story, this is the first time in my life that I heard such thing that some paved roads are not travelled by anyone during winters (why would they build such road? what’s a logging road?) Also remember it didn’t snow when they started, by the time it began to snow it’s too late. The state of Oregon should have closed that road, period. If they can’t afford to have *all* roads plowed and patroled *all* the time, just close them down.

  2. It was the Oregon State Police, not the media who first called James Kim “a true hero”. Police are not known for hyperbole, they just say what they truly feel. They also emphasized “he did nothing wrong”.
    Out of respect for all involved, I’d just leave it as is. Give the family back their privacy. Enough of the potshots.

  3. I also agree with Fat Ears. Get those roads secured better if they’re not for public access. At the very least, other places have signs like “Not A Through Road”, “Dead End”, etc.

  4. Hero was a term granted by the searchers and the media. However, since you posed the question, here is one interpretation.

    We call our men and women in the military heroes, when they put their own lives in peril for the protection of others. Sometimes that protection isn’t of people in immediate danger, but it is protection of their ideals and way of life. Still, when they so unselfishly give up their lives for that protection, they die the most honorable death, and that is what makes them a hero.

    James Kim died trying to protect his loved ones that he felt were in immediate danger. In doing so, he showed tremendous honor and courage. In the eyes of many people, despite some mistakes that were made, it was his resourcefulness that kept his family alive. To trek 16 miles while hungry, cold and weak, in that rugged wilderness was a monumental feat. To the Kim and Fleming families, Kati, Penelope and Sabine, he will always be a hero. I don’t think there is anything wrong with anyone else seeing him that way. Had he lived, I still think all of those people would feel the same about him.

  5. California has lots of backroads that are just as risky to drive as the Bear Camp Rd from Interstate 5 to the coast. I grew up in northern California, and I can take you from I-5 to some of the most remote areas known in the West just 2-3 hrs off the freeway. Wake up here.

    Bear Camp Rd has a BIG figgin Yellow Sign at it start that said: Road may be closed by snow 18 miles ahead. There were two more signs en route. Everyone thinks the signs must be for someone else, not me the otuside visitor.

    Someone pointed out that one guy died staying with his car when he got stuck on top of this road. That was 1994. No one was looking for him. However, this does not make the road a regular killer. Then someone started screaming of its danger as a women drove her RV off the road and crashed it. Er, hello? RV folks drive their vehicles off roads elsewhere. Not the fault of this road if you cannot drive backwoods roads. It is you.

    If that road is closed, there are dozens of other routes over to the coast and can be traps as well—if you drive off the paved roads. Logging roads are everywhere in the Oregon Coast Range. If you think you can drive through, you are going to get stuck or have to drive back (the correct choice here).

    This terrible incident did not have to happen, but did. James Kim make superhuman feats to save his family (kept them alive for a week with minimal supplies), tried to hike out (10 miles before he walked off a logging road into a very steep creek valley, and still went another 5-6 miles).

    Be prepared for at least one week being stuck if you drive into the back country, especially in winter.

    Leave Bear Camp Rd alone. It is a good route when weather permits. Read the signs, buy the right maps (do some study of this topic if you are a novice), and ask locally; or, stay on I-5.



  6. Quote: “The difference, of course, is that James Kim didn’t set out to get his family stuck in the snow.”

    Yes, and that’s a huge difference from Krakauer’s account of Chris McCandless in the book Into the Wild. You’re comparing apples to oranges. Additionally, to call the mistakes that originally got the Kim’s into that mess “criminally foolish” is Monday-morning quarterbacking at it’s absolute finest.

    Of course they had their children with them, their trip was to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with family. Nobody leaves the kids home with a babysitter on trips to see the family on Thanksgiving or Christmas, both of which have the supreme inconvenience of occurring during winter in this hemisphere. Yes, they missed a turn and eventually sought an alternate route. Anyone who can honestly say they have NEVER done the same either doesn’t drive at all or has a very selective memory.

    The actions that are being called “heroic” are the Kims’ responses to the situation AFTER the trouble was already at hand. Obviously, it was too late to lament over the missed turn and alternate route that turned out not to be safe even if it appeared to be OK on the map. One must also remember that they were stuck for an entire week before James Kim finally made the fateful decision to go out seeking help, covering an incredible distance in nearly impossible terrain in the attempt. The fact that both children were completely unharmed is a testimony to the devotion of both parents.

    What is “criminal” is the amount of 20/20 hindsight infecting too many internet posters. They, sitting in their warm homes in front of their computers while devouring a third slice of pizza. They who have never made a single mistake in their lives. They, the self-righteous who secretly think themselves infallible and hey … maybe immortal even. Of course the consequence of all their basking in the glow of their own arrogance is preventing them from understanding the subtley of definitions for terms like “heroic”.

  7. Incredulous, I completely agree with you.
    Anyone who can honestly say they have NEVER done the same either doesn’t drive at all or has a very selective memory.

    Infact, this happened to our family on a road trip, we didnt find an empty room on Thanksgiving break and kept driving, now that was utter foolishness to leave on a road trip on one of the bsuiest holiday season without reservations, and drive through the night. But luckily for us, there was no bad weather, and we didnt lose our way. We kept going on in the hope of finding someplace to crash for the nite. What I want to say is that something like this can happend to any of us. We learnt from our mistake, and now the tragedy of the Kim family has made us promise to never do such a thing.
    We shouldnt blame anyone. This is something that could happen to any of us. We should learn from the sacrifice of James Kim. May his ould rest in peace.

  8. This article and the judgments of the author deeply sadden me. So many assumptions made from the keyboard of a computer. Being a “hero” is a moment in time however someone gets there to confront a challenge that threatens himself and others. When that challenge is faced and the person puts himself secondary to saving others, that is heroic. The family spent over a week together in their car before Mr. Kim set out to get help. The helicopter that found the family followed his tracks to find them. The road was suppose to have had a locked gate. Vandals had broken the lock. The storm came it with rain, snow, and ice. Could it be that the signs were obstructed? The Kims found themselves in a perilous situation. Mr. Kim did all he could to save his family. He gave his life. Yes, he is a hero.

  9. Mr. Moore is right: the AP reported that Bear Camp Rd. normally has a locked gate during winter (a “logging road,” Mr. Ears, is a dirt road created for logging that is normally passable only with 4WD vehicles and is often impassable in winter), but it had been broken open by vandals. This means that James Kim drove past a busted gate AND a “BIG figging Yellow Sign.” Not knowing the routes is a big reason not to drive them in a snowstorm.

    Again, I am not casting blame, and the several readers who commented that James gave his life trying to save his family are of course right. I just don’t think calling him a hero does anyone any good — except Kati Kim, who has a lot of sleepless nights ahead. None of us can know, or criticize, what she really believes about her late husband.

  10. Richard, does casting aspersions upon Mr. Kim do anyone any good? Do they not add immense insult to extreme injury to the surviving family and friends? Calling someone a hero only benefits the living as it may assuage their grief and inspire others who find themselves in extreme circumstances to follow the selfless example of sacrifice. Richard, you have your opinion and I have mine. It’s Christmas. Think of the gift you just handed the family.

  11. For those interested in this discussion, there’s a similar one in progress on Jason Avant’s ‘DadCentric’ blog:

    Let me contrast James’ fate to that of the three climbers currently lost on Mt. Hood. The climbers a) are experienced, trained outdoorsmen; b) knew the route, and the risks they were facing; and c) didn’t drag their kids along. None of those 3 applies to James Kim.

    I’ve gotten into trouble in the wild more than once, usually due to some boneheaded decision of my own. Luckily I’ve never suffered any real lasting consequences. Subjecting my 7-year-old son to risks that I don’t comprehend and he didn’t choose — for me that would be unforgivable.

  12. Richard Martin, your commentary on James Kim is just as disgusting as Ken Hughes on the Conservative Voice website were he said “Something isn’t right about the supposed actions of James Kim making the wrong turn getting lost off the interstate freeway. If Mr. Kim and his family were traveling from the Seattle Washington area to San Francisco they would have been on Interstate 5 driving south. Not even an inexperienced driver would have mistaken a mountain road for an Interstate highway. ” James Kim had an AWD wagon and the map that he was using that night showed Bear Camp road as the only road to Gold Beach after Hwy 42 (the exit he missed) . It was not snowing until he reached higher elevation and when the snow got bad he tried turning back but got stuck. What he did after that until he died James Kim will forever be remembered as a hero.

  13. A better contrast to Mr. Kim’s heroic selfless redemptive act of sacrificing his life for his family is the cowardice of Teddy Kennedy. No matter that both may have gotten into a jam through mistakes, only one one acted with honor and courage.

  14. Point of view, implicit assumptions and what slice of this tragedy you focus on determines whether you consider James Kim a hero or someone who was foolish.
    Life, and death, can be complicated affairs, and it may well be that Mr. Kim was both a fallible human being AND a hero — which are not mutually exclusive. He made a series of mistakes, most of which probably weren’t fatal in and of themselves, but when added up and with compounded interest, put the Kim family in very dire straits.
    When he walked away from his family, things must have seemed very desperate, and his efforts to find help were indeed heroic. Just as he was tormented by hunger and the onset of hypothermia, he was also probably tormented by the agonies of doubt and blaming himself for the hundreds of little decisions that led to this crisis.
    Most painful of all, must have been his not knowing that his family would be rescued. So, if it helps deal with the pain, your there-but-for-the-grace-of-God empathy, call him a hero.
    But then, check the status of your emergency supply bag in your car or truck, do your homework about the route and the weather, and be vigilent and cautious, for the sake of your loved ones.
    Let’s be careful out there.

  15. There are no doubt the Kim’s made mistakes. How many times have we seen how small, seemingly unconnected, errors have led to tragedy? Who hasn’t missed a turn and then taken the next road? Who hasn’t turned down the wrong road and found themselves lost? Who hasn’t continued on in the hope they’re still on the right track?

    But not all of the errors can be blamed on the Kim’s. It was not their fault the gate blocking the logging road had been unlocked and opened. It was not their fault the map they used was poorly annotated. Yes there were road signs but were they easy enough to miss in the dark and the snow? Would a sign marking the side road to Black Bar Lodge (which they drove by and James walked by) have made a difference?

    After a week of waiting and no doubt with the weight of the world upon his shoulders, James set out in the snow. He left his family in the safest place there was under the circumstances – with the car. It was his sense of responsibility to his family that led to strike out in the hopes of saving them. He was a smart man and surely knew he might die before he reached help. A chance he was willing to take. How do you define heroic, Mr. Martin?

    “Well, I don’t mean to cast aspersions on the dead, and I certainly don’t want to add to the burdens of Kati Kim…”

    But that is exactly what you’re doing, sir.

  16. When Richard made his comment ““Well, I don’t mean to cast aspersions on the dead, and I certainly don’t want to add to the burdens of Kati Kim…” he should have ended any further discussion and not use that self-seving statement as a license to steal the last remaining shred of dignity from Mr. Kim’s family and their memory of him. Richard’s sword of “truth” should have been sheathed. That would have been respectful. It’s selfish flailing because he doesn’t grasp the meaning of hero, is not honorable, courageous, merciful, or heroic.

    Richard also wrote, “I’ve gotten into trouble in the wild more than once, usually due to some boneheaded decision of my own. Luckily I’ve never suffered any real lasting consequences.” Hopefully, neither he nor the Kim family will suffer lasting consequences for the boneheaded decision to post this aritcle and defend it.

  17. Rick,

    WOW … you sure stirred the pot with this article! I’ve never seen so many comments posted on NewWest’s site for one article.

    I am a strong believer in writings that challenge beliefs that may be considered the norm – it does not mean that I always agree with them – but a contra-approach is something that should not be flogged or avoided. After all, let’s all not forget that your article is only that – an article – it is not a letter you wrote and mailed to the Kim’s.

    After reading the article and all of the comments, I find myself drawn to the comments of Brodie Faquhar.

    I do believe that people can be both fallible and heroic in any given situation. Once a mistake is made, it is the greater person who rises above panic, grief and indecision to look only forward and to make the best choices for everyone involved, even if that includes personal sacrifice.

  18. I completely agree with the post that Kim isn’t being called a hero for making the mistakes that led to the family getting stranded. The label was earned by the COURAGE he displayed to try to get them out. That’s what moved me and many others. Too bad a few who think they’re so smart can’t understand that simple concept.

  19. I’m sorry to say that I have to agree with Martin and James Kim is NO hero. The msitakes that were made by various people:including Mr. kim and especailly the ones who cut the lock on the gated rod; led to this situation. Still, the Kim’s made the first series of mistakes that put themselves in the situation, didn’t back out when/while they still could, depended TOO much on technology to save them ( the phone signals detection later was a fluke) and James’ action in hiking out were the actions of a desperate person to save his family – that isn’t heroism; it is natural survival instincts.
    When the media, law enforcement, SAR or regular people label these kind of people as heros, it lays the foundation for future people to get into trouble in the Wild. The situation on Mt. Hood right now is another example. so called experienced climbers are in trouble and thier irresponsible behaviour is causing others to risk their lifes!! Good judgement is very hard to define and even harder to get in the mounatins and wilderness areas of the world and some people will die, be mangled or so forth. The teton mtn. guide Paul Petzoldt (founder of NOLS) use to say;”There are old climbers – their are bold climbers; but few old, bold climbers” and he said as well; “Rules are for Fools’ – so as long as people don’t use proper planning, good judgement and such; we will have foolish situations develop that kill people and THEN we’ll have to pass rules against these actions!!

  20. Wow, that last post competely missed the point….again. No one is saying that calling Kim a hero means it’s okay to do what he did to get in the trouble. In no way does calling Kim’s actions heroic suggest that it’s okay to get into trouble the way he did. Most people understand it to mean the sacrifice, not the bad decisions. I find it incredible that you can’t separate the two concepts.

  21. I consider both Kim AND HIS WIFE (as a unit) to be heroes. In light of this tragedy, a $500 satellite navigation system seems like a pretty worthwhile expenditure now.

  22. Hero?
    I don’t know if heroism is limited to actions taken in situations not of one’s own making.

    We’ve all been there? Yeah, I’ve made some foolish decisions about roads and snow and supplies. My decisions were just as ‘wrong’, the only difference were the consequences. Ofcourse we can all say he should have had better sense and better maps. Perhaps he also should have won the lottery. He didn’t. Deal with it.

    Signage? Yes. Its there and its perhaps a bit lowkey.
    Survival knowledge sorely lacking? Yes. Clearly. He is used to San Francisco’s urban areas.

    Hero? Doesn’t make much difference. He’s dead. Might as well call him a hero. It won’t hurt anyone.

  23. Dear Fools Gold: I wish I could agree with you when you say that we should just call Kim a hero and don’t worry about it NOT hurting anyone. Unfirtunately, the various services in this country and the world that do the actual searches, first aid, rescues and such (like: Life guards, Mtn. SAR, Helo rescue and more) encounter untrained ametuers all the time who think they can do the job and with no training or equipment they get hurt or even killed. one of the primary rules of rescue servioces is; Make NO more victims – especially your self!! as a Red Cross Trainer – Instructor ; we’ve had to recind the cert. of a volunteer, because this person was always talikng about he’d be a hero one day in a rescue and he interferred with trained authorities in a dangerous sitiation. This is where the indiscrimnate use of certain terms/labels can cause lots of trouble!!
    Last year in CA – Life Guards reported over 300 additional deaths from untrained people trying to do dangerous water rescues – instaed f calling a trained and equiped Life Guard!!
    I hope this is ; Enough Said!!

  24. Leon is right on point. If Mr. Kim had been a mere passenger without decision making opportunity as to their route, and Mr. Kim had done exactly the same self-sacrifice for another man’s family in the car, wouldn’t he still have been a hero? If, as Jay suggests, there are people out there who would be emboldened to act recklessly with full knowledge of the mistakes leading up to this disaster simply because Mr. Kim is labeled a ‘hero,’…well, nature has a solution.

  25. Jay, your Red Cross person went seeking the approbation of being a hero. Mr. Kim, like all true heroes, risked and gave his life for others merely to save them, not glorify himself.

  26. It’s really a tale of two Kims. The “hiking out” Kim mustered a superhuman effort that is rightly described as heroic. The post-stranded James is a hero. The events leading to the stranding are mesmerizing in their inexplicability. I can’t draw any conclusions there because the facts just aren’t good enough, but no matter how hard I try to adjust the facts in favor of the Kims (make the snow start as late as possible, mentally hide road signs, etc) it only minimizes the faulty judgment. Never eliminates it. It’s still incomprehensible to me how a renowned gadget guy would be without a GPS. This type of discussion is very different now than in the recent past. There is affordable LIFE SAVING technology out there for EVERYONE now. Not knowing where one is driving is a thing of the past. Pointing out that he may have forgotten it is no argument. In that case, he would be acutely aware of the extreme contrast of driving with one and without. Heck, even a simple compass would have prevented misreading the paper map. Without any of these tools, especially in this day and age, what possible reason could there be for trying to outguess a paper map in a remote area with bad or potentially bad weather — without supplies — without clothing — without anyone knowing your whereabouts — with young children? Something must have been driving him mentally forward. A severe argument, backseat cacophony, caffeine overdose? The possibilities are endless. The pre-stranded portion of the story is so incomprehensible, I have to conclude at this point that the public information regarding it is some combination of faulty and incomplete.

  27. Jay, thanks for sharing about your Red Cross role. It makes more sense to me why you are bothered by the ‘hero’ label on Mr. Kim, because of your experience with the volunteer who wanted to be glorified as a hero. That is different than Mr. Kim. Craig Moore is right, Mr. Kim wasn’t trying to be a hero – he was trying to do what’s right for his family in the best way he knew how to with his admittedly flawed information. That is the difference.

  28. What I cannot understand is that after the Kims went on to the logging road, why didn’t they notice that there were no road signs whatsoever? (A CNN story said this). No speed limit signs, no “curve ahead” signs, nothing!

    If I were in the car, I would have stopped if I hadn’t seen the highway number or any road sign within the first mile or two. Of course, that is assuming that I would have embarked on a night journey over a mountain road with kids aged 7 months and 4 years, in the first place.

  29. To: dilip and others,
    We can second guess the Kim’s til Dooms Day and maybe Mrs. Kim will make a statement one day, soon I hope, about how they got in this situation and what went thru their minds as things went from bad to worse.
    In Oct. 2005 in the Snowy range of S.E. WY, a family (dad,mom, 5 month old and a friend) had to be rescued from Medicine Bow peak after heading up and NOT stopping, even as it got dark. The dad was describe as an experienced Alaskan mountaineer (actually he was on a guided expedition – so decisions were made for him) and mom was an active hiker. They ignored various warnings, like very little daylight left, deepening snow and high winds building – made several poor judgement calls; depended absolutely on a guidebook, no compass and little emergency gear and then just wouldn’t top heading up as things got worse.
    Lawerence Gonzales has written a book called; “Deep Survival – Who lives, dies and why” ; here he studies the mental aspects that get people into trouble (like a single minded goal), what keeps people out of trouble (accept reality) and how they DO for themselves (not everyone is going to be rescued in time) to get out of trouble. To me, the mental aspects are MORE important than the gear one packs for emergencies, but the gear is still important.
    As a mounatin guide, rescue and first aid trainer and member of the local SAR (search and rescue), I see this kind of mindset all too often and more times than not – it leads to trouble.
    NO ONE IS IMMUNE from reality and the natural world doesn’t care who you are; ignore the rules of survival and you will get bit one day!!

  30. (Quotes from Richard Martin)

    Quote: ” Let me contrast James’ fate to that of the three climbers currently lost on Mt. Hood. The climbers a) are experienced, trained outdoorsmen; b) knew the route, and the risks they were facing; and c) didn’t drag their kids along. None of those 3 applies to James Kim.”

    Another apples and oranges comparison! Those climbers DELIBERATELY set out on their adventure despite adverse weather reports and the common knowledge among climbers that Mt. Hood kills in the winter. As “experienced, trained outdoorsmen” they should have known better, and that opinion is from an experienced rock climber. (Which doesn’t mean they ‘deserve’ to die, but still.) The point is it’s a completely different situation than a family with children just trying to get back home after a Thanksgiving weekend.

    Your point “c)” makes the comparison even more ridiculous. Of course the climbers “didn’t drag their kids along”, that would indeed have been “criminally foolish” of those climbers. But the Kims weren’t on any adventure, climbing or otherwise, they had traveled to spend a holiday with extended family and were simply returning home. That’s something thousands of families do every holiday season and AGAIN, nobody leaves the kids home with a babysitter while going over the river and through the woods to visit Granny and Pop-Pop.

    Quote: ” I’ve gotten into trouble in the wild more than once, usually due to some boneheaded decision of my own. Luckily I’ve never suffered any real lasting consequences.”

    Well congratulations, you won the ‘fate lottery’ more than once but at least you do recognize that luck was a factor in getting out of those jams. Kim wasn’t as lucky as you were. It’s just another example of the certain amount of existing chaos that we all hope will mercifully pass us by whenever we get ourselves into a jam, which fallible humans will all do at one time or another. Blaming those it does hit by use of 20/20 hindsight and Monday-morning quarterbacking is nothing more than an attempt to distance oneself from ever being hit by anything similar. It’s the old familiar “that could never happen to me”, another human commonality.

    Quote: “Subjecting my 7-year-old son to risks that I don’t comprehend and he didn’t choose — for me that would be unforgivable.”

    Well then you better just lock him up right now, for his own safety and your sanity. Don’t ever transport him in any vehicle, there are risks on the road from other drivers. But don’t walk him either, pedestrian accidents also happen. Don’t ever send him to school, accidents occur in schools or somebody else’s kid might become violent. Don’t ever get him vaccinated, a few people’s kids have had serious adverse reactions from those. Make sure you carefully patch test before exposing him to anything, serious allergies can develop at anytime even if a person was not allergic to the very same thing yesterday. Don’t buy him any toys, far too many children have been seriously injured by toys that were deemed safe. Don’t let him watch TV or play any video games, he may imitate what he sees and end up hurting himself or others. In fact, don’t let him use any electricity at all as electrical accidents frequently occur. Don’t heat your home with natural gas, that’s an explosive substance. Make sure your home is not in the flight path of any commercial or private aircraft since those have been known to fall from the sky onto homes, causing injury to those inside. But above all, don’t over-protect him because it will adversely affect his psyche and cause serious developmental delays.

    Get the picture? It’s pretty simple: a.) Risk can be dangerous; b.) Life IS risk; c.) 5 minutes can change your life forever; d.) Stuff happens, despite careful preparation and planning; e) You don’t get the luxury of back-tracking to change events leading to a bad situation, you only get to deal with the present.

  31. I understand the dangers from those who seek out notoriety or foolishly endanger themselves and others in order to be a rescuer. Ofcourse, in this search atleast, the professionals did not do too well at all.

    I lugged a lot of survival gear around even on local trips in an urban area in Summer. That is the only way to have ski boots and a sleeping bag in the car if you get stuck on some remote road in Winter…have the survival gear in the car at all times.

    I made a few mistakes and forgot to even think of gasoline once when I was so intent on beating a storm across the pass. An inconvenient night is better than being stranded without any resources at all. We all wish Mr. Kim had thought to stop for a jug of water, a box of crackers and a blanket. Thats all he would have really needed. He would still have been uncomfortable and at risk, but would not have been so desperate as to set out on his own in order to make an attempt to save his family. They would have been cold, hungry, tired and worried, but all would have been found alive. He did not mean to jeopardize his family or his rescuers. Few stranded people ever do.

  32. I don’t know what to say. But, it could have been avoided, it could have been worse, it could have been better.

    Sometimes, nature decides its course. It’s the same for human. It is a complex world. I mean, I believe in faith. But, not always. Sometimes, timing, situation, people, etc. all play into the scene.

    No matter how we look at it, it is difficult and it is complex. Our human mind, decision, and luck not always play out the way we may expect. I just say, god, wished they didn’t go for that trip, wished they should have evaluated the road ahead before going farther. You know, sometimes, we are used to and take things granted and really not prepare for the worse.

    Look at our soliders, our security, our police force. They get hurt on incident they could have been avoid by more careful, more alert, and sharper. That’s some of the factors. But, like I said earlier. James was’t lucky where he ventured.

  33. I agree with Richard Martin’s article. James Kim is neither a hero nor a fool. To those who say he didn’t know Bear Camp Road was dangerous … it has been well documented that he and Kati passed numerous large, visible yellow signs indicating the road was hazardous and could be blocked by snow. The road got narrower, steeper, it began to rain and snow. Yet they kept going. They made a mistake. Making a mistake and taking measures to undo the mistake does make one a hero. Kati and James Kim made many misjudgments and we are fortunate that through some good choices and luck Kati and their children survived and through some other bad choices and, James did not. I see nothing heroic about his actions.

  34. They were on their way from a Thanksgiving visit with family in Seattle back to San Francisco

    Check your facts.

  35. Incredulous said :

    “The point is it’s a completely different situation than a family with children just trying to get back home after a Thanksgiving weekend.”

    No, the route back home (to SF) CANNOT be via Bear Camp Road. If that is what they wanted to do, they would have gone south on I-5 and on other freeways (80, 580, 680). In fact, they would have been on freeways for all but the last few miles to their destination.

    The reason they took the Bear Camp Road is because they were heading towards Gold Beach on coastal Oregon.

  36. There was no point in writing this trash “opinion” article. I hope you get stuck on a road you’ve never been before and cry yourself to sleep and with your piss frozen to your leg, jerkoff.

  37. To everyone out there passing judgements on Mr Kim and his decsions, have a little sympathy, he is no more. The last thing a family who has been through all this needs to hear from complete strangers, (who obviously dont care about how they feel or what they have been through) is a bunch of comments on why they did this, what wrong decsions they took, etc. To all you people who think they are very smart, this could easily have been anyone of you or me.
    So be kind, and offer your condolences. Pray for the woman who has lost her husband and the two babies who have lost their father, and the parents who lost a young son, instead of being so mean. If you cant be human, do them a favor, and keep your ‘smart ones’ to yourself. You were not in that situation, and if you have never been in it, you have no authority to judge the decsions made by this family. Hope some of you smart ones get what I am trying to say!!

  38. Richard Martin is entirely correct, in that the word “hero” is too easily appropriated in this day and age. I occasionally watched Kim on CNet’s Crave techno show (see for his last show), and liked him as a Net personality. Nonetheless, I, too, feel the hero tag is misappropriated here. Firefighters, policemen, mountain rescuers and others who selflessly work to save people they do not know — and risk their own lives in the process — are heroes. Military people sent to foreign lands to fight for others are heroes. The people who tracked down Kati Kim and her kids are heroes. James Kim, alas, is not. If you are honest about it, you have to admit he did what any parent should have done in that situation. And that is simply not heroic, although it was courageous.

    One other thought: commenter Craig Moore gets the award for cheapest shot by trying to, once again, compare anything and everything to Teddy Kennedy’s admittedly moronic behavior some 37 years ago. Reviving Chappaquiddick to support your contention on Kim? Come now, Mr. Moore. That’s not very heroic of you.

  39. Duke, in my opinion it is more apropos to get at the meaning of ‘hero’ by contrasting the Kim family tragedy which occured in a vehicle to another tragedy in a vehicle while comparing the behaviour of the respective drivers versus contrasting, as Richard did, this tragedy with mountain climbers who knowingly take risks.

  40. Didn’t the pilot of the helicopter say that he found Kim’s footprints in the snow and followed them to the car? If that is the case, by doing what the textbooks say you shouldn’t do, Kim became a hero. He sacrificed his own life to lead rescuers (however unwittingly) to his family. He saved them.

    And Kati Kim deserves huge praise for breastfeeding her daughters through the crisis–I am so impressed by her excellent mothering.

    (And “Deep Survival” is a phenomenal book–check it out for a lot of insight.)

  41. Wow. A lot of people paying attention to the backwoods road traps. Mr. Kim died trying to save his family. What more can be said?

    This issue is that this tragedy should be a learning experience for a whole lot of folks who buy the AWD car represented as having some sort of magic power by the advertisers. It does: brakes to stop it, a steering wheel to change direction with, and reverse gear. Never, ever, be afraid to turn around and go back.

    All those roads are vascular in that they all lead to larger and better roads, and those roads all lead to the heart of town. Or just the opposite. The angle of how a spur meets another indicates most of the time which way is back to the Interstate. They are numbered, and the numbering system is somewhat intuitive. But you don’t figure out roads in the dark.

    Having a grub box and water in the rig all the time is easy. An ax and shovel makes sense. A come-along and a tow rope. Flares, a lighter. I always have a light weight sleeping bag and a tarp in the original package.

    The mind set is most important. Just don’t do things you know you have no idea of the consequences. Stop, back up, turn around. Backtrack to safety.

    For trips, investigating the satellite phone rental programs available is not a bad idea. You can rent a satellite phone for a week or a month for not much money.

    Always have someone aware of where you should be at any given time, and check in when you can. It is when that check in does not happen that awareness of something gone awry has happened, and the search can begin. Just common sense.

    And, the gate that was not locked in the Kim trap, it turns out, was not locked because the BLM gate locker could not determine if there was someone on that road system when he/she was there to lock the gate on gate locking day. And, on the Mt. Hood climber search, it was just discoverd today (12-15) that the climbers attempted to register at the Hood River Ranger Station, and their registration documents said they had bivvy bags, shovels, stoves, a quantity of food, which means they were somewhat prepared to dig in and wait out weather. That it only took the USFS folks a week to check their self register box is just another faith in the system kick to the groin, in light of the effort being exerted to find the three men. Just not doing what they a paid to do in a timely manner makes my blood boil. Lock a gate, check a box. Tough duty.

  42. I agree with Mr. Martin. I agree with everything that he wrote. In fact I wouldn’t be suprised if Oregon Child Protective Services was looking into the Kim case.

    I have been racking my brain trying to understand why Mr. Kim did the things that he did, and I’ve come to a conclusion. One word explains all of it: Newbie.

    Is it fair to criticize a newbie? I think so because newbies in any realm can be dangerous people. Mr. Kim was dangerous even to himself. Criticism is a way to see newbies for what they are.

  43. I saw the CNN program on where and how the Kims took the wrong turn. However, the sign said the nearest town was 30 miles away. Since there was heavy snowfall, would they have made it to the next town even if they had taken the correct route? I believe the elevation was going to get even higher and that could mean the snowfall would have been heavier?

    Overall, I think there was a degree of carelessness on the part of the Kims though I really admire the resourcefulness and efforts on the part of both James and Kati once they got themselves into trouble.

    The tragedy is that they need not have gotten into this mess in the first place. If I were in a situation where I had to get out of the car in the middle of a rainy/snowy night to move rocks from the road so the car could proceed further, I would have said “This is it! I am giving up!” and looked for a place to make a U-turn.

  44. Dave Richardsen, you mentioned about Oregon Child Protective Services??? What the heck. Are you a moron?

    James Kim, his wife and two daughters spent Thanksgiving in Seattle visiting families. After brunch with a friend in Portland on Saturday, November 25, they headed south on I-5, bound for the coastal town Gold Beach where they planned to stay at the TuTu Tun Lodge. James and his wife, Kati, made a mistake on the dark highway, missing the turnoff for U.S. 42, the best route to the Oregon Coast.

    JAMES AND KATI DIDN’T PLAN TO KILL THEIR DAUGHTERS. Do you watch more news. Babies, children, women and men are dying everyday in Iraq. BUSH ADMITS MISTAKE ON IRAQ.

  45. Well, I completely agree with you Richard. Yes, he may not have been familiar with the roads. Yes, he may have had no idea what he was getting himself into. Yes, he was not a mountain man in a 4 Runner with wool blankets and emergency rations under the seats. But, the fact remains that he messed up, and he died, and his family almost died. He is not a hero. He is a tragic figure. He deserves respect, and sympathy, but not a place on a pedestal.