Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Heartbreaking story, lessons learned

Last night's episode of Anderson Cooper covered the tragic death of James Kim and the horrific experience of his family. I'd heard the bits and pieces over the news, but I hadn't seen the videos of the road, the mountains, the car, the burned tires. I hadn't seen the maps showing the location of where Kim's family was found and Kim's long trek away from the car to where, tragically, his body was located. I was able to see how they took the wrong road and could understand why they kept driving, thinking that civilization would be just around the corner. I've been on mountains like those... here in Idaho, going to California, and up in northern Idaho where it borders Washington and Oregon.

I have two thoughts I want to share...

First of all, am I the only wife who can visualize my own family in this situation? I did not know Mr. Kim and, from what I saw last night, he obviously was a devoted family man, hard worker, and extremely intelligent. So, please do not think that my comments are in ANY WAY disparaging to his devotion, wisdom, or memory. But it occured to me that I could see MY husband (also a devoted family man, hard worker, and extremely intelligent) in the driver's seat... sincerely believing that his desired destination is just around the next bend. I don't know what happened between Mr. Kim and his wife during those hours of driving in the dark snowy frigid night... or during the nine days they were trapped in the lonely unforgiving wilderness with their two small children... but I know what it would have been like for my husband and me. Oh, I'd be pissed! I would have been the nagging wife for a while during the drive ("Do you know where you are going? Are you sure? Shouldn't we just turn around?") and then I would have been silently fuming ("Whatever. Just do what you want." Well, maybe NOT so silent, I guess!). While we were stuck on top of the mountain, I can picture us both frustrated and scared, neither emotions bringing out the best in us. Would we be snapping at each other? Would we be able to be strong and calm for our children? I don't know... I just know that my heart breaks for this family. I sincerely pray that Mr. Kim and his wife were stronger than I think my husband and I would be in the same situation. If they weren't, then I pray even harder for Mrs. Kim and her children, that God will help heal the wounds that came not from the cold or the lack of food, but from simply being scared human beings doing the best they could under the circumstances.

Those were the first thoughts that went through my head last night, as I watched and learned about the Kims' experience and trauma. As I realized how easily this tragedy happened to them, I became aware that my own family/vehicle would not be prepared for such an experience.

Remember the Stolpa family? When they were lost, I heard people criticizing their decisions... but do we really know how we would handle it if we were in the same situation? Surely, the Stolpas, the Kims, and my family aren't the ONLY ones who have taken wrong turns either due to unfamiliarity with the roads, fatigue, and/or poor visibility.

I want to take a moment to ask all of you who read this to take a few moments out of YOUR busy lives (especially busy during this holiday season) and make sure you have some emergency tools tucked away in your vehicles.

Rick Sanchez, CNN Correspondent, posted the following:

Here are a few things that Ken Brinks, a ranger with the Colorado State Parks, suggests keeping in the car at all times:

  • Blanket
  • Candles
  • Matches
  • Flashlight
  • Fluorescent tape (even just one piece of orange tape can be spotted by a helicopter)
  • Shovel
  • Water
  • Couple of candy bars (but not chocolate -- chocolate can dehydrate you and so can, say, salted nuts)
  • Coffee can to hold the candle (and melted water)
  • CD to use as a reflector in case you see a helicopter
But the most important thing you can do, Ken says, is to tell somebody where you are going and when you expect to get there. If nobody knows where you are going, nobody knows where to look for you. Just like a pilot would, you gotta file a flight plan. [Read the complete posting here...]

I want to add that coffee cans are rarely metal any more so just look for a large metal can like V-8 or pork-n-beans come in. I also want to suggest that the matches are kept in a waterproof container, whether Tupperware or Ziplock, just make SURE it's water proof. (Not all containers really are, as proven in my husband's lunchbox!)

We MUST also remember the THREE RULES:
  1. You can survive for three hours without shelter.
  2. You can survive for three days without water.
  3. You can survive for three weeks without food.

Pass this on to those you love. One of the biggest lessons I've learned from the Kims' tragedy is that it REALLY could happen to just about anyone.

Something more to think about (from Wikipedia):

Map and route controversy
The Kim incident produced rumors that the Kims had used online mapping to find their route.[25] However, later reports derived from police interviews with Kati Kim indicate that the Kims did not consult their laptop computers, but used a paper road map.[26] According to the Oregon State Police, the map they used was issued by the state of Oregon.[27]
During the hunt for the Kims, a number of computer users tested programs such as Google Maps and MapQuest to map the shortest route between the two towns. The programs reportedly listed Bear Camp Road, where the Kims got stuck, as the most efficient shortcut. The online mapping programs have apparently changed. As of December 7, 2006, maps indicate the drive along Interstate 5 and Oregon State Route 42 to U.S. Highway 101 as the preferred route between Roseburg and Gold Beach. Google Maps does recommend Bear Camp Road, however, as the route between Grants Pass and Gold Beach.

Bear Camp Road is rarely used even by local residents due to its difficult terrain and often inclement weather.[28] Furthermore, there are three yellow road signs that state: "Bear Camp Rd. May be blocked by snowdrifts"[29]

Bear Camp Road signage
However, the road on which the Kims got stuck was an offshoot of Bear Creek Rd. that was supposed to be locked by the Bureau of Land Management during the winter. BLM spokeswoman Patty Burel said, "It's supposed to be locked so people don't make that mistake." An investigation revealed that a vandal had cut the lock.[30]


Diana Rowe Pauls said...

Sent to me by a dear man...
One of the "tricks" in learned in survival school many years ago was:

Buy a bag of cotton balls and a jar of vaseline. Saturate the cotton balls with the vaseline, work it in there pretty well. Then pack the resulting gooey mess in a 35mm film can or an old (empty) shoe polish can (my choice). When needed, pull one out and pick at it to "fluff it up" a little. You can light it off with a match or even flint & steel. Good fire starter.

MountainGoat said...

Nice reminders and advice. There's a reason they call them accidents...no one would set out on purpose to get lost in a snowy forest. With the proper emergency supplies, as you suggest, it makes survival more probable. For those who don't venture into the backcountry often or even on purpose it's easy to forget things like this.

Diana Rowe Pauls said...

That is what I was thinking... I know that for the MOST part, when I'm traveling, I have tons of food and blankets and drinks etc. (with four kids and little money, we HAVE to pack like that for our trips--no money for McD's and hotels!), but if I wasn't planning on an esp. long trip, I doubt I would be prepared for something unexpected... like a wrong turn down an unknown road...