Hypothermia, exposure killed Kim

James Kim was found lying on his back in the water of Big Windy Creek on Wednesday, dead of hypothermia and exposure, about a mile from the snowbound car where he left his family to search for help five days earlier.

An autopsy performed Thursday morning indicated Kim did not suffer any incapacitating injuries, Oregon State Police Lt. Gregg Hastings said Thursday.

Dr. James Olson, who performed the autopsy for the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office, was unable to determine exactly when Kim died, Hastings said.

A helicopter pilot spotted Kim at about noon on Wednesday. He had left his wife and children with their snowbound Saab station wagon Saturday to find help. The family became stranded in the snowy Klamath Mountains in southwest Oregon on Nov. 25 after taking a wrong turn on the homeward leg of a Thanksgiving road trip. Kati Kim, 30, and their children, Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months, were rescued by helicopter Monday.

James Kim walked more than 10 miles after leaving his family, starting off along the remote logging road where they had become snowbound, then descending into a canyon carved by Big Windy Creek, Hastings said. His path doubled back after he entered the canyon, so that when he was found he was at the floor of the canyon, just a mile from the family car above.

It is unclear how James Kim got in the water of the creek.

James Kim thought the town of Galice, Ore., was just four miles away, Hastings said. He left the family hoping to make it to the town or to flag down a motorist. In fact, the town was 15 miles away.

“James Kim did nothing wrong,” Hastings said. “He was trying to save his family.”

James Kim was wearing a heavy, dark-colored jacket, gray sweater covering a T-shirt, blue jeans and tennis shoes when he was found in the water, Hastings said. He made it to within one-half mile of the Rogue River, which he might have thought would lead to civilization.

amartin@examiner.com

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