GRANTS PASS — The Oregon State Sheriff's Association wants to know "who knew what when" in Josephine County's search for a San Francisco family stranded more than a week deep in the Rogue River Canyon.
The review was requested by Josephine County Sheriff's Patrol Search and Rescue, a nonprofit group of volunteers that searches for people missing in the backcountry, after stories in The Oregonian newspaper suggested officials in Josephine County did not make effective use of tips about what road the Kims might have taken.
"There was concern that our standard after-action review that we do after all significant searches was maybe subject to the question — we just didn't even want to bother looking like we were attempting to defend ourselves," said Rural Metro Fire Department Chief Phil Turnbull, chairman of the county search and rescue executive committee.
"The sheriff's association is the standard panel for local search and rescue to get this kind of review done," he said.
Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger, who is overseeing the review, said sheriff's detectives from Klamath and other counties would interview about 40 people connected with the search and hope to have a report done by Jan. 5, when a review of the state's role in the search is due on the governor's desk.
"We are going to provide them with an after-action report that really is who knew what when, and how they learned the information or how they received the information," said Evinger. "It's about what went right and what they could have done better."
"A critical point in this critique is finding out when the search became under the control of one county," Evinger added. "Because (in the early stages) everybody thought it was theirs in a different county. A transfer of command is what we are looking at — when and how did that happen."
James and Kati Kim and their two young daughters 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 luxury lodge where they had reservations.
They were not reported missing for four days, and the initial search stretched more than 300 miles between Portland and Gold Beach.
After being stranded a week on a remote logging road that branches off Bear Camp Road, James Kim hiked for help Dec. 2, but left the road to follow a creek, where he was found dead of exposure four days later.
Two days after he left, his wife and two young daughters were found by a local helicopter pilot who was following a hunch and not involved in the formal search. The family hired its own helicopters to join the search.
Two Edge Wireless engineers acting on a hunch sifted cell phone records and found a text message for the Kims had bounced off a cell phone tower near Glendale and had been received somewhere to the west of the tower. They notified authorities the night of Dec. 2.