Thursday, December 07, 2006

Lost in the snow

My friend Kim nailed it with her post about James and Kati Kim, the young couple who were lost in the snow in Oregon with their two children. I too was hoping desperately for a happy ending for him, this young man I never met or heard of before this happened. Rob and I drove from Seattle to LA once for Christmas, and not only did we go through miles and miles of seemingly empty Oregon valleys, when we came back, a blizzard whipped up just outside of Portland that turned the roads to ice. I'm from Minnesota and I've seen winter, but that scared even me.

It's shocked me how people have been so quick to second-guess, to say "Well, I would never have left the car!" Yeah, if I had magical future-seeing powers and knew that we would finally be rescued, neither would I.

But if I was a father of two young girls who were slowly starving to death and we'd been there a week with no sign of anyone finding us, A WEEK, I think I might have tried just about anything.


Sylko said...

There was a case a few years ago of a man stuck in his car in the snow (he was not from the area), and he did NOT get out of his car and walk, and he starved to death. He was only a couple miles away from help. The only mistake James Kim made was waiting so long to go for help. Had he gone the morning after they got stuck, when he was still well fed, not frozen, and had wrapped himself in as many clothes as he could, he would have made it. When he left, he probably was already judgement impaired from the cold and lack of food. I'm not second guessing him though. I hope he knows his family is safe.

I followed this case closely because my husband and I recently took our three kids for a day in the back country. I work for a ranch, and we were on access roads only ranch employees can use. The Ranch is huge, and some of the roads are rarely used. In fact, we passed a dead cow that was literally bones and skin, so it had been a while since someone was out there!

When we made it down the hill using a dirt road in a non 4wd vehicle (we chose roads that did not require a 4wd on the map), we encountered a gate. This was the gate we were driving towards as we worked our way out of the mountains and into the valley. But my key didn't work. My key had opened up all the other gates, but not this one.

We tried other roads to see if they would take us around this gate to another gate, but all roads at that area ended. It was getting dark.

We panicked. I convinced him to try driving up the hill. On a dirt road. In a non 4WD. Big Mistake. We bottomed out and slid. I had to get out on this quite steep, soft dirt road and guide him away from the edge so he didn't tumble the girls down the hillside. AND had to make sure he didn't accidentally slide over me as I was behind him on the downslope. Frightening.

I managed to call the Ranch main line, though the office was closed. And got through to the call service, then my cell phone cut off. We made our way back to the gate I couldn't open, and I tried calling. At this point, all I could get was 911. It was 43 degrees and dropping. We had no blankets in the car. We had leftover picnic food, though. the 911 operator kept losing me when they transferred me to my area and told me that they couldn't help me because they were not in our area (because we were in the mountains, I guess we got bounced to the wrong cell tower). I asked them if I could just give them my coordinates (We have GPS) and they said no it wasn't their jurisdiction, and told me to stop calling them and gave me the direct number for the police closer to me. Unfortunately, the only call I could make was to 911! The phone wouldn't connect to anyone else. Add to that, the phone was dying and kept shutting off on me (we had a car charger, but it was the phone itself, not the battery, that was causing the problem).

After a while, my husband took the phone and jumped the fence to see if he could get a signal if he walked down the road. Then we saw headlights.

It turns out my first call to the Ranch answering service was long enough for her to get the information she needed, and she sent the Ranch manager.

Our situation was SOooo minor compared to the Kim's, but I can see how smart people can make a decision in a panic and then suffer (thank GOD we didn't go over a cliff when we tried to force our way up the hill). Luckily, I can learn from that and say I'll never endager the girls like that again. Unfortunately for James, he doesn't get to sit in front of his fire on Christmas Eve and say that to himself. We all make mistakes that could kill us, but usually come out okay. James wasn't so lucky.

I was sooo hoping he would be found. Poor Kati and poor girls.

seth said...

thank you for posting this. i think it's unfair and ridiculous for people to second-guess mr. kim's choice to look for help. you can be sure if i thought my babies were going to freeze or starve, i'd gladly strap myself to a rocket and hope for the best if i thought it might keep them safe.

PJ said...

People need to second-guess what they themselves would do, because on a primal level they're terrified. "If it happened to him, it could happen to me. No, wait, I'm not married. I'm not male; I'm not Asian-American, I don't drive a [whatever]." We need to reassure ourselves or be frightened out of our wits.

/heart goes out to family