The Kim family had been missing since November 25th. They had been last seen eating at Denny’s in Roseburg, ORE.
James Kim, 35, Kati’s husband has not been seen since Saturday, when he left the family to go to get help. Oregon law enforcement were tracking his footprints, which dipped into a steep icy drainage, into the night.
Numerous Oregon law enforcement agencies, from county sheriffs to the national guard, have been dedicated to the search over the past nine days. But it was a private helicopter apparently hired by the Kims’ relatives that spotted the vehicle after signals from the Kims’ attempted cell phone calls were tracked to a tower near the vehicle.
“The fact they were found is miraculous,” said San Francisco Police Inspector Angela Martin. “She held up an umbrella with SOS written on it. She was that smart to save her babies and herself.”
When the father is found, Martin added, “I’ll be able to breathe again.”
Kati Kim, 30, and her children, Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months, were in fair condition when they were airlifted to a hospital from their stranded silver Saab 900 station wagon 30 miles west of Grants Pass. Through the helicopter window, the mother was seen holding her swaddled infant close to her chest.
After leaving Portland on Nov. 25 and stopping for dinner in Roseburg, the Kims headed to Gold Beach on the coast where they planned to stay before returning to San Francisco.
But they took Bear Camp Road — a scenic road used by whitewater rafters on the Rogue River in the summer, but not plowed in the winter.
“It was pretty wet. It was snowing close to the top,” said Lt. Gregg Hastings of the Oregon State Police. “They felt it wasn’t safe to continue. They were trying to back down a very narrow road in the snow. They were having traction problems.”
They reached a side road and followed it until they got stuck in a snowbank, he said.
“They used quite a bit of gas trying to get out,” which they finally did, Hastings said.
But as they continued on for several miles, they reached a fork in the road and decided to stop.
“It was pretty dark out,” Hastings said. “At that point, they decided to stay because they were lost.”
The snow continued on top of the mountain, making it hard for rescuers to find them, he said.
But on Monday afternoon, the vehicle was located along with Kati Kim waving her SOS umbrella. At the hospital, she told staff that “she breast-fed both of her children during the nine days,” said Laura Biggers, marketing director of the parent company of Three Rivers Community Hospital in Grants Pass.
Sadly, James Kim’s body was discovered two days after his wife and two daughters were rescued from their car, stuck on a remote road. His body was in the Big Windy Creek area near the Rogue River, where ground crews and helicopters had been searching for days.
Our thoughts are with the family during the holiday season.