Gate on deadly logging road never locked

/ Source: The Associated Press

A gate on a logging road that a San Francisco man drove down before getting lost and dying of exposure was never locked and was not broken open by vandals as was first thought, authorities said Wednesday.

James Kim, 35, was found dead in a mountain creek Dec. 6, two days after his wife and the couple's two daughters were rescued from the car, which had gotten stuck in the snow.

The federal Bureau of Land Management previously said that the gate to the logging path off Bear Camp Road should have been locked since Nov. 1, but that someone broke the lock and left the gate open. The bureau reversed itself Wednesday.

"We can find no evidence it was ever locked, nor was it vandalized," said Jody Weil, director of public affairs for BLM's Oregon office in Portland. "What had happened is that our engineer and supervisor had asked his folks to close it and assumed it had gotten done, and it had not gotten locked."

Bureau staff members who went to lock the gate could not confirm whether anybody had traveled down that road recently, and they did not want to lock anyone in, Weil said.

Someone else at some point put a non-bureau combination lock on the gate to the logging road to keep it open, but any evidence of who owned the lock was destroyed when a tow truck hit the gate while hauling out the Kims' car, Weil said.

The family was returning to San Francisco after a Thanksgiving trip to Seattle when they missed a turnoff from Interstate 5 to the coast and decided to take Bear Camp Road.

The road, a one-lane strip of pavement, is often used in summer by Rogue River rafters and in winter by hunters, cross-country skiers and families cutting Christmas trees. It is not plowed in the winter.

The family took a fork onto the logging road, getting stuck more than 20 miles later.

They stayed with the car for a week, consuming only baby food, jelly and bottled water, and burning tires and wood to keep warm and to alert rescuers.

James Kim, an editor for a technology company, had struck out on foot to find help on Dec. 2, two days before his wife and daughters were rescued by helicopter. He was found dead of hypothermia after he had walked 16 miles.