We sympathize with the James Kim family's loss - Kim died late last year when his vehicle was stranded in a snowstorm in the Rogue River Canyon while returning from Oregon. But frankly, the family's criticisms of how the search and rescue was conducted are as ill-informed as Kim's decision to turn onto a remote logging road during a snowstorm.
Kim's father, Spencer Kim, listed his concerns in Saturday's The Washington Post (that column is reprinted at right). While most of his criticisms are aimed at Oregon officials, they do spill over the border into the way Del Norte County - which assisted Oregon in the operation - conducts its search and rescue. It also reflects on the way that local state and federal forestry officials run our parks and wilderness areas.
Spencer Kim's criticisms are largely unfair and unwarranted:
?Logging roads need to be marked and gated - Many of the more dangerous ones are, but frankly it's a matter of priorities: We've got more pressing issues on which to spend a limited amount of dollars, such as keeping our main roads marked and open. Indeed, common sense says you don't turn onto unmarked roads in unfamiliar territory, especially during a snowstorm.
?Better trained search and rescue - Any public safety official will tell you that more training always is needed. But this region boasts some of the nation's best search and rescue teams. To those not familiar with search and rescue tactics, they can seem chaotic. And they do take time, especially in dense woodlands. Kim should give specifics about regional teams' faults.
?Media interference - Kim claims that allowing the media to fly in the area hindered the search. Quite the contrary. The media in essence joined the search for his son. Further, they drew nationwide attention to the search, resulting in volunteers and donations from many residents and agencies throughout the region so that more people would be in the field.
We have no doubt that James Kim was a good father. But his decision to walk out of the woods alone violated a cardinal rule: If you're lost, stay put. Indeed, his family members who remained with the vehicle were found alive. James Kim's decision to expose himself to the wet and cold wilderness killed him. And that's not search and rescue's or the media's fault.