Letter Re: The James Kim Exposure Death Tragedy: Lessons to Be Learned

Mr. Rawles:
I followed the search and rescue story [the tragic death of James Kim–stranded on a remote Oregon logging road] in the news recently and was struck with very emotional feelings about their ordeal. Apparently he and his family did the right things, but in the end bad luck and a lack of proper survival gear was disastrous. Putting myself into his shoes I feel that I too would have definitely tried to hike for help after a week of hunkering down and waiting for rescue.
See the series of Google Earth images showing his path while trying to hike out. The heartbreaking fact is that he started in the wrong direction if trying to reach the nearest shelter/help. These also show the long distance and elevation changes he surmounted in attempting to hike to help.

Lessons to be learned from this tragedy:
1. Never travel without some sort of emergency gear in your vehicle. A good Bug-Out Bag with extra items for warmth and additional food might have made the difference for these guys, in terms of prolonging their ability to stay put and wait out for rescue. (Particularly as since they were on a road that would get searched eventually).
2. Friends from back east taught me the old saying, “Dress to survive, not to arrive”. Meaning that when venturing out in an area with inclement weather make sure you are equipped with clothing that would enable you to walk home if you had to. Better, warmer and or waterproofing layers could have made the difference for James Kim in his hike out.
3. A good map is worth its weight in gold. His wife has now said that after reviewing the tourist map they had he left to attempt to hike to Galice, a town they thought was four miles away. In fact it was much further than that, and ironically had they continued forward on the road they had gotten stuck within another mile they would have found a cabin to take shelter in.
A good map and GPS receiver is even better, especially in an unfamiliar wilderness area.
4. When in doubt, turn back. The Kim’s became stranded after trying to find a cut off road, and made a wrong turn at a fork that led them onto a secluded and seldom used logging road just as a snow storm hit. If it’s getting dark or weather is turning don’t be afraid admitting a mistake and re-tracing your steps back to where you know you are on the right path. Better very late than never.

JWR Replies: Echoing S.H.’s comments, an article titled “Lessons Learned from the Kim Family” was posted over at Doug Ritter’s Equipped to Survive Blog