Friday, December 08, 2006

James Kim, a tale of tragedy and I'm sorry, stupidity.

Sometimes the mistakes you make have a cost that go along with them, a traffic ticket, a broken bone, a broken heart, a criminal record and unfortunately, sometimes they cost you your life.

It is easy to think as you listen to your Sirius radio and drive in the enclosed warmth of your car that the real world just outside the tempered glass is something that would never hurt you. The same feeling of safety you get as you hurtle down the highway at 70 miles hour inside your metal, plastic and glass box can be instantly shattered by reality. The laws of physics don't stop once you close the door and start the engine. I don't care how many airbags your car may have, if you hit a concrete freeway abutment at 80 miles an hour, you will die.

There are other laws that are just as uncompromising, the laws of nature fall into that category. Driving into a national forrest in the dead of winter on a forest service road that you are unfamiliar with, because you don't want to backtrack and take the State Highway you missed the turn off to is about as stupid an idea as I can think of.

Do I feel sorry for James and his family? Absolutely. It sounds like he was great guy and a terrific father. I am sure he thought to himself about a thousand times, how could you be so dumb. There is nothing more expensive than regret.

I have driven into the forest in my jeep with snow covering the ground a few times. It is a great time, if you are prepared.
Rule number one, don't go alone. If you get separated, or if you drive for a little while and don't see another vehicle, it's time to turn back.

I took our kids up to the snow one day and drove up Drum - Forbay road near Colfax. I was in my 4 wheel drive truck and we stopped to make a snow man and sled, when we started home we decided to go up a little further to see if we could find one more good sledding hill. I saw the faint outline of tire tracks in the snow covered road and followed them for a mile or so. There I found, and I am not making a racial statement here, an Asian family in their Toyota mini-van stuck on the side of road trying to turn around. They were from the Bay Area and wanted to see the snow. If I had not come along and dug him out with my shovel and truck he would have had a nice cold walk three miles back to the Freeway. I though to myself, what the Hell was he thinking?

When I go Jeeping, I have a winch, locking differentials and 35" tires. I can out of almost anything I get into. I also wear the clothing I would wear if I were camping overnight there. I have on my waterproof boots, a bag with a winter parka, rain pants, and a few power bars in my emergency kit along with enough fire starting gear to light a fire in a snow storm.

Some of the chuckle heads I have been with were wearing tennis shoes and a t-shirt. I asked them what happens if you get separated and break down out here? Aw, that will never happen, they say. One night alone in a freezing metal box will change your mind.

Sadly for the Kim's, a dumb mistake turned into a tragedy that cost James his life.

Your car is not a magic carpet, it can break down, run out of gas or get stuck. It is a complex machine with many moving parts, but it does not have a brain. The human behind the wheel has been equipped with one, use it.

1 comment:

SactoDan said...

Sad but true.

When I travel beyond the areas I am familiar with, I have a rubbermade carry box that contains a small multi-purpose military style camp shovel, toilet paper, flashlight(s), batteries, first aid kit, baclava and blanket. I also carry several power bar type bars, and several cans of food and a can opener, and water.

A satellite phone would come in handy too, but too expensive.

I think it's time to reinstall the ham gear in my car and truck.