CENTRAL POINT — A San Francisco man who died in the snowy mountains of Southern Oregon after leaving his family to seek help was found in a shallow creek, dead of hypothermia, authorities said Thursday.
Lt. Gregg Hastings of the Oregon State Police said James Kim, 35, was found Wednesday, fully clothed, on his back in Big Windy Creek near the Rogue River.
A storm of questions about the search prompted a series of reviews, including a peer review that the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office asked the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association to conduct.
That report, put together from more than 40 interviews and hundreds of pages of documents, is available below.
After leaving his wife and two children in their stranded car four days earlier, Kim walked more than 10 miles over rugged terrain looking for help. But he had walked nearly in a loop. His body was found only about a mile from the family car, Hastings said, separated from the vehicle by the walls of a canyon.
Dr. James Olson, a deputy state medical examiner, conducted the autopsy Thursday morning and was unable to determine the exact time of death. The autopsy revealed no incapacitating injuries, Hastings said at a press conference.
A search helicopter hired by his family spotted Kim’s body at midday Wednesday, two days after his wife and two daughters were rescued from their vehicle, stuck on a remote road.
The Kims left Portland on Nov. 25, missed the turnoff for their planned route on a state highway and took an alternate road on their way to the Oregon coast. Hastings said they made a wrong turn and got stuck when trying to turn around.
The snow was so heavy, Kim opened and leaned out a car door trying to see, Hastings said.
“They got about 15 miles off Bear Camp Road before they decided to stop,” Hastings said.
After a week in which Kati Kim, 30, nursed their two children and the family burned tires for warmth and to signal rescuers, James Kim set out on foot in search of help. Kati Kim told officers it snowed hard for several days, and the family heard the whirr of helicopters at least twice.
Before he hiked away, James Kim lit a fire for his family, Hastings said.
Hastings said James Kim had wanted to find a road to the nearby town of Galice and possibly a motorist, or to get to the Rogue River as a way to the town, Hastings said.
James Kim thought Galice was only 4 miles distant, although it was really 15 miles away, Hastings said.
“James Kim did nothing wrong,” Hastings said. “He was trying to save his family,”
On his way, Kim shed or left behind clothing, including one of two pairs of pants he was reported wearing. Searchers thought he might have been leaving them clues. Hastings said that Kim’s body was still clad, and a backpack was found with him.
Kati and daughters Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months, left a Grants Pass hospital Tuesday.
“Kati and the kids are in good condition as it relates to the ordeal that they’ve been through,” Hastings said.
Kim, 35, a senior editor, joined CNET Networks Inc. about three years ago and wrote reviews about digital music and audio devices for the technology-themed Web site and a CNET blog about electronics. He also appeared on the company’s video segments and on television.
Besides creating an internal Web site where mourners can write well wishes for Kim’s family, CNET on Wednesday established a fund so that employees could donate unused paid time off to charities in Kim’s name. Executives will work with Kim’s relatives to figure out which charities will receive donations from the “In Memory of James Fund.”
James and Kati Kim and their two young daughters disappeared on their way home to San Francisco from Thanksgiving in Seattle. After visiting friends in Portland, they got lost the night of Nov. 25 trying to drive a backcountry route known as Bear Camp Road through the Siskiyou National Forest during a snowstorm. They were headed for a Gold Beach lodge where they had reservations.
A massive multi-agency search for the family attracted media attention from across the nation. Kati Kim and the girls were rescued Dec. 4, but James, who had attempted to hike for help, died of exposure in the woods.