Members of a San Francisco family missing since Thanksgiving weekend were found by a private helicopter pilot Monday on a remote stretch of road in southwestern Oregon, but the search continues for husband and father James Kim, 35, who left his family with the snowbound car Saturday morning in search of help.
Kati Kim, 30, and her two daughters, 4-year-old Penelope and 7-month-old Sabine, were discovered at about 1:45 p.m. as Kati stood on the desolate, snowpacked road waving an umbrella after hearing the search helicopter that had been hired by family members.
Kati,James and their daughters had survived since Nov. 25 on provisions packed in the Saab station wagon for a Thanksgiving weekend road trip. When the food was gone, Kati nursed her children. James, an editor at CNET, foraged for food. They ran the car engine and used the heater for warmth until they ran out of gas, then burned the tires, Josephine County Undersheriff Brian Anderson said Monday.
On Saturday morning, a week after the family turned off a side road and got stuck in the snow along a rural road that is often used as a shortcut to the Oregon coast, James set out on foot in search of help. He was clad with only tennis shoes, pants, a sweater and a jacket.
The search continued for James on Monday night as helicopters with thermal imaging technology were added to the effort, along with dogs and horses, according to the Oregon sheriff and police officials. Searchers were following the father’s footprints over a ridge.
Rescuers were able to narrow down the Kims’ position by tracking an attempted call made from a cell phone, authorities said. Although the call did not go through, analysts were able to determine which cell tower had received the signal, and the search was focused nearby.
The family went missing Nov. 25 after driving south from Portland, following visits with family and friends. They had reservations at the Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge in Gold Beach, on the Oregon coast, Saturday night.
On Wednesday, the Kims’ friend and employee Charlie Wright reported them missing to the San Francisco Police Department after they failed to contact, for the third consecutive day, one of the two San Francisco boutiques they owned.
Wright said Monday that friends cautiously celebrated the safe return of Kati and the children. “It’s hard because we need James to come home,” Wright said. “The mood [at the store] is joyous but not perfect.”
The trio was reported to be in good condition Monday night after being airlifted to a local hospital.
Internet key tool in search for Kims
Searchers for a San Francisco family reported missing Nov. 25 used traditional rescue vehicles — four-wheel drive trucks, snow vehicles, cars and helicopters — but the effort was fueled largely by a uniquely 21st century component: the Internet.
Within hours of the first police report of the Kims’ disappearance, notices circulated online message boards and were passed via e-mail. The tech news Web site CNET, where James Kim is a senior editor, broadcast live the news conference that announced the successful rescue of Kati Kim and their two daughters.
“If it weren’t for the Internet, I don’t know if this would have happened so quickly,” said Charlie Wright, the Kims’ friend and the manager of Church Street Apothecary, one of their two San Francisco boutiques. When the Kims hadn’t returned to San Francisco by Nov. 28, two days after their scheduled arrival, Wright began to worry.
“I thought I was being overly paranoid about them missing. I went online and asked my LiveJournal friends what I should do,” she said. “I wanted somebody to tell me I was doing the right thing by filing the police report.” Wright filed a missing-persons report with San Francisco police on Wednesday, and by Thursday morning online message boards and social networking sites were abuzz.
“People wanted to help in some way, and a lot of them, the only thing they could do was repost it,” Wright said.
Friends of the Kim family set up a Web site to publicize the search and coordinate the offers of help. A woman in Vancouver, British Columbia, who didn’t even know the family, created a video on YouTube asking for information. The video got more then 1,000 hits, according to the Web site.
But it may have been reliance on the Internet that led the Kim family to be stranded on a snowy, deserted road. Terri Stone, an innkeeper at the Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge in Gold Beach, Ore., where the family had reservations Saturday, said the road on which they became stranded appears on MapQuest as a route between Grants Pass and Gold Beach.
“It is a one-lane paved road with turnouts. It is a mountain pass; it is not maintained. When the snow hit here a few days back they closed it,” Stone said of Bear Camp Road, where Kati Kim and the children were found. “We do not recommend this road ever to our guests.”