California father missing in snowy Oregon canyon found dead, 4 days after leaving stranded car

Wednesday, December 6th 2006, 6:11 am
By: News On 6

MERLIN, Ore. (AP) _ It started as a little mistake: the Kim family missed a freeway turnoff that led them down a one-lane road through Oregon's snowy mountains on a Thanksgiving vacation.

The heavy snow trapped their car on the remote road, forcing James Kim, his wife and two young daughters to wait for help with almost no food or water.

They waited more than a week, running the car to keep warm at night, then burning the tires. When the small supply of baby food ran out, Kati Kim nursed her daughters, Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months.

On Saturday, James Kim, 35, had set off on foot for help, leaving the road after about three miles and fighting his way through the rugged countryside. He never found help.

His body was discovered Wednesday about a mile from the family's car _ two days after a helicopter hired by the family spotted Kati Kim waving an umbrella and rescued her and the girls.

A helicopter spotted James Kim's body about a half mile from where it joins the Rogue River, Josephine County Undersheriff Brian Anderson said.

He had trekked five miles down the steep canyon and about eight miles in all, but ended up about a mile as the crow flies from the car.

``It seems superhuman to me to cover that amount of distance given what he had,'' said Anderson.

On Tuesday searchers were heartened to find first a pair of pants Kim had be wearing over his jeans, then farther down the creek some other wet clothing _ two shirts, a cap, a sock and a girl's skirt. A searcher had to be lowered from a helicopter to gather them up.

``They were laid out in a well defined area, in a pattern,'' state police Lt. Gregg Hastings said. The pattern led officers to hope that ``little signs are being left by James.''

But an expert on hypothermia said it was a bad sign: victims of cold often feel a false sense of warmth and shed their clothes.

The rescuers were ``devastated,'' said Anderson, who had to turn away from the microphones, overcome by emotion, after announcing James Kim's death. ``Most of us breathed and lived this for days. You do take it personally.''

James Kim wrote reviews about digital music and audio devices for CNET Networks Inc.'s Web site and on a blog. He also appeared on the company's video segments and on television. Kati Kim ran a pair of boutiques the couple owned.

The family was last seen Nov. 25 after visiting Seattle and Portland. The family was headed back to California, planning to stay overnight at a luxury lodge along the Rogue River near Gold Beach on southern Oregon's coast.

An autopsy was scheduled for James Kim and the results were expected to be released Thursday.