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Coroner,Kim Died of Exposure, Hypothermia

MERLIN, Oregon (CNN) -- CNET editor James Kim died of exposure and hypothermia as he sought help for his snowbound wife and children, authorities said Thursday.

After waiting a week for rescue, burning car tires for warmth and having little to eat besides berries, the couple decided they had no other choice but for James Kim to venture out Saturday for help, Kati Kim told authorities.
He faced the unforgiving wilderness of Oregon's back country wearing only street clothes.

A SuperHuman Trek
Calling his trek "superhuman," officials said the 35-year-old walked [16] miles before he collapsed, authorities said.

They missed a turn and found themselves stranded in snow and lost on one of Oregon's treacherous mountain roads -- an area that is rarely plowed during the winter.
At some point, James Kim tried to back up the car to where there was less snow to block them. But snow was falling so fast and furiously that he had to open his door to see, authorities said.
Over the next few days, the snow and rain fell unrelentingly, Kati Kim told searchers.
The family ran the car sporadically to keep warm as temperatures dipped below freezing at night.

After running out of gas, they set a spare tire on fire and eventually burned all four tires for warmth. When the weather let up briefly, they burned magazines and driftwood.
The Kims fed their children baby food and crackers. Kati Kim, nursing 7-month- old Sabine, also breast-fed her 4-year-old daughter Penelope.
Before James Kim left his family, he built a fire for them. He put on a pair of sweat pants over his jeans and set out.
He encountered what searchers would later describe as rugged, steep, snowy terrain with sodden branches, slick rocks, downed trees and poison oak nestled between sheer cliffs.
Despite those conditions, authorities said, he covered about [16] miles before succumbing in the ravine where rescuers found his body on Wednesday about noon (3 p.m. ET).
"It seems superhuman to me that he was able to cover that amount of distance given what he had and also that he had nine days in the car" before setting out, Josephine County Undersheriff Brian Anderson said.
"I'm amazed," searcher Robert Graham told reporters. "We spent hours down there and made very little distance. ... The conditions were very rough. It's been cold. The terrain is so rugged, just spending one day out here is very exhausting."
Kati Kim and the couple's daughters were found Monday when searchers saw her waving an umbrella. She had just set out on foot when they were found, authorities said.
The three spent a night in the hospital and were released Tuesday.

An arduous and determined trek
Using a map, authorities showed that Kim had headed south and west before entering the drainage area and following it eastward -- back in the direction of the family's car.
Authorities tracked him by following his footprints in the snow.

Before locating his body, rescue workers said they had found what they believed was a trail of clues from James Kim, including three shirts, a wool sock, a blue girl's skirt and pieces of an Oregon state map.
Kati Kim had told authorities her husband had taken the items with him when he left their car.
Operating on the assumption he might still be alive, searchers had dropped care packages in the area.
Kim's body was found about a half mile south of the family's car at the foot of a huge cliff, authorities said.
"It appears to me he was highly motivated, and he knew what he was doing, coming down [the drainage area]," Anderson said.

Authorities were not sure why Kim chose that route, he said.
A deputy found a message written on white paper on the road, Anderson said, describing the note as an SOS saying the family had been stuck since the Sunday after Thanksgiving and that two children were in the car.
"Please send help," it said. Authorities are not sure which of the Kims had written the note, Anderson said.
A note was also found in the car. It was written by Kati Kim and indicated where she and the children were headed.

'James Kim was a hero'

The news that James Kim was found dead left searchers "devastated," said Anderson, who grew emotional while telling reporters of the discovery. "I'm crushed."
Kim was a senior editor at CNET Networks.
"This has been a heart-wrenching experience for everyone involved," CNET CEO Neil Ashe told reporters. "I know that I speak for everyone at CNET Networks when I say that James Kim was a hero, and we will miss him greatly."
He said the company would do all it could to assist Kim's family and honor his memory.
Searcher Joe Hyatt told reporters the rugged terrain of Oregon can be deceiving to those who are unfamiliar with it.
"When you're up in the mountains, it all looks nice and peaceful," he said.
Of Kim, Hyatt said, "I can only describe him as an extremely motivated individual. I would describe him as a true hero."
Wednesday evening, Scott Nelson Windels, a friend of the Kims, issued a statement thanking the searchers and others involved in the incident.
"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," it read.
"Please continue to keep Kati, Penelope, Sabine and the rest of their family in your thoughts."

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Read our analysis of the Kim's Toolset:

Basic Questions

Was anyone made aware of thier itinerary in advance of thier journey?
Did they have a GPS to supplement maps?
Was thier vehicle capable of handling the terrain?
Did they have snow tires or chains?
Did they have a portable weather radio?
Did they have flares, beacons or other tools for signaling distress at a great distance?
Did they have a working mobile telephone for calling in help?
Did they have emergency space blankets or sleeping bags?
Did they have a pocket compass?
Did they have scream whistles capable of being heard at a great distance?
Did they have a hatchet and shovel?
Did they have food and water for 72 hrs?
Did they have an emergency medical kit and some training in First Aid?
Did they have a good set of 2-way radios?
Did they have a hand warmers or emergency candles?
Did they have flashlights powerful enough to be seen for 1 mile or more?

Was anyone made aware of their itinerary in advance of their journey?
Leaving a 'breadcrumb trail' to be found in the event of an emergency is a good start to a successful rescue operation. This can be a printout left on a kitchen table or simply some words of information left with a relative or friend. In the vast majority of similar incidents, rescuers don't have a clue where to start a search if no clues have been left behind. Obviously, the Kims weren't aware of the errors in navigational judgment that they were making after they missed their first turn. Only real-time tracking would have been able to signal the deviations from original course that they had taken.

Did they have a GPS to supplement maps?
Paper maps are a minimum requirement, but a working GPS is becoming a must for travelers of unfamiliar geography. In addition, least 12 hours of back-up battery power is recommended to keep a unit running after a car's battery is dead or installed batteries fail. Periodically updating the onboard maps is also highly recommended. An extreme measure would be to plant a homing beacon on one's self or one's vehicle- a device that emits a signal that can be picked up by suitable receivers. Such devices are often used by skiers or other oudoorspersons to aid in mountain rescue. These are not typical emergency tools but rather ones one would use if traversing very unfamiliar territory.

Was their vehicle capable of handling the terrain?
During their unfortunate predicament, the Kims were traversing an inhospitable road in bad weather in their 2005 Saab 92X station wagon. This vehicle is not a four wheel drive car and in addition to having a chassis that is 10cm lower than average for such a style of vehicle, it rides on stiffer suspension for better cornering, acceleration and braking-performance features that are desirable on dry pavement but which may well have made this model of car much less capable in snow over treacherous terrain.
Matching the capabilities of your motor vehicle to extreme weather and road conditions is prudent. There are a number of vehicles with similar capacity that could well have traversed the same route with less likelihood of getting stuck.

Did they have snow tires or chains?
Multi season tires are acceptable for an occasional snowfall of a few inches or wet or slightly icy pavement, but true snow tires and chains are a must for traction on deep snow or over ice-packed snow.If the weather turns ugly you should be prepared with a pair of emergency chains.

Did they have a portable weather radio?
Any advance warning of bad weather prior to or during a journey is helpful is mitigating danger. Portable weather radios can now be bought for less than $40 that are able to give weather reports and warnings for a specific locale.

*Did they have flares, beacons or other tools for signaling distress at a great distance?
Of all the responses to emergencies involving victims being stranded away from immediate help, the ability to signal one's location and need for rescue is one of the most important.
At the very minimum, bright flashing battery operated electronic flares or beacons are a must in every automobile .Incendiary flares are common. For those that might traverse open spaces or wilderness, then aerial or hand flares or even laser flares are recommended. Such flares must be able to reach over tree tops and be visible for at least one mile- even in storms. Signaling mirrors cost less than $5.00 and can be used to signal over flying aircraft on sunny days. The truly prepared will have at least three modes for visually signaling help and must be able to do so for a minimum of 72 hrs. even during storms.

Did they have a working mobile telephone for calling in help?
Currently, mobile wireless phones are not perfect in terms of reception but they are becoming a ubiquitous first line of communication. At least one mobile phone with enough back-up power for 72 Hrs of continuous use is recommended. For regions with poor reception, external booster antennas are recommended. Additional power is required where reception is poor as it drains batteries even faster than when reception is good.

Did they have emergency space blankets or sleeping bags?
Hypothermia (a severe drop in body temperature that eventually leads to death) can be averted in extremely cold weather by minimizing the loss of body heat. Heavily insulated apparel is one method for accomplishing this but simple mylar emergency 'Space' blankets can be another in an emergency. A motor vehicle should be furnished with as many such emergency sleeping bags as there are possible occupants. Furthermore, the reflective aluminization of these products, reflect the sun, making them an effective passive signaling device.

Did they have a pocket compass?
Compasses are a minimum requirement for navigation. They not only aid in planning a journey, but they also help in maintaining bearings. Knowing the relative location of landmarks in ones path is critical in avoiding the 'running around in circles' syndrome.

Did they have scream whistles capable of being heard at a great distance?
A simple high quality scream whistle costs less than $4.00 . With little effort on the part of the signaler, it can produce an unmistakable distress signal that can be heard for at least a mile. Some emergency rescue crews have highly sensitive audio receivers capable of picking up a shrill sound over a great distance.Each person should have one scream whistle on a lanyard.

Did they have a hatchet and shovel?
Having the ability to cut small timber and to dig is rarely a common requirement, but a hatchet and folding shovel have many legitimate uses during an emergency and many kits now include these two tools.

Did they have food and water for 72 hrs?
Nutrition bars that are high in carbohydrates, vitamins (some with protein) as well as high energy sports gels abound. Every person should have access in a motor vehicle to at least 72 Hrs worth of fast energy. Hydration is critical so unless there's a way to effectively obtain clean water, a vehicle should contain enough water for 72 Hrs per person. Upward adjustments should be made for hotter/drier climates than for temperate or less arid ones.In addition, emergency foods need ample water for effective hydrolysis in order to stave off de-hydration that will be accelerated by the consumption of high carbohydrate meals.

Did they have an emergency medical kit and some training in First Aid?
There are now many pre-packaged First Aid kits on the market.In addition, supplementary equipment that was formerly the province of professional medical practitioners is now ubiquitous and within reach of most persons. As a general practice it's prudent to keep and maintain such kits in a motor vehicle at all times. If a journey is anticipated that may take travelers a great distance away from emergency rescue, then the kit must grow to include more items. As important as a well provisioned kit , is the know how to administer First Aid. This is a skill that should become part of every citizen's education. Anyone that's joined the Scouts or participated in a Red Cross or other community based program, has already had access to the training. Many resources are available to learn what all adults in the 21st Century should know- life saving skills.

Did they have a good set of 2-way radios?
Mobile phones are notorious for running out of a charge or for failing to acquire or transmit a good signal in poorly connected regions. In addition to having back-up batteries or emergency chargers, booster antennas are cheap enough to be included in a vehicle so as to improve the strength of a poor signal. If a members of a stranded party elect to fan out in search of help, they should still be able to communicate with each other by some electronic means. Battery operated two-way radios ( AKA Walkie-Talkies) with ranges of up to 8 miles are a good form of back-up in the event that mobile phones fail. The very best of these run in the hundreds of dollars but a serviceable set can be had for under $80.00.

Did they have a hand warmers or emergency candles?
The Kims were resourceful in burning their tires so as to stay warm, but a box full of disposable chemical hand warmers would have been a more efficient solution. Such warmers are inexpensive, convenient, compact and highly effective as well as efficient. In a worst case scenario, personal 'cocoons' made from large garbage bags can be heated using a single 8Hr Candle. A box of such candles could have kept the Kims warm till help arrived.

Did they have flashlights powerful enough to be seen for one mile or more?
Cheap flashlights are not an acceptable source for reliable illumination in an emergency that may span many hours or days.
There is no excuse for not having at least a MAG 3D flashlight in a vehicle as large as a family station wagon. Not only is such a big flashlight useful for short term emergencies but the beam can reach much further than that of cheap dime store flashlights -which are notorious for failing. In addition, many modern high performance flashlights can now be bought for less than $50.00. Every flashlight should have a companion set of replacement batteries on hand to extend runtime.

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