In the Last Oregon Tragedy, Shameful Official Conduct

Now when everyone is gazing at Mt. Hood, let’s not forget the last outdoor tragedy in Oregon. Today’s The Oregonian prints a bravura piece of reporting about why local authorities failed to find the Kim family on Bear Camp Road 2 weeks ago. The story documents a series of bonehead maneuvers inside the Josephine County Sheriff’s office——and explains why it took a week for anyone to check cell phone records that might have saved James Kim, and how it came to pass that a guy who owns Burger Kings found the lost mother and girls by flying his own helicopter up a logging road many knew to be suspicious but that had gone unchecked.

Among the shocking findings: One top county official was too wrapped up in an Oregon State football game to come in and look for the lost family, a week after they went missing. And for two days as James Kim staggered dying in the forest, and authorities knew his whereabouts, no one thought to deploy helicopters that were available that had heat-seeking equipment that might have located him. (The same technology used in the last couple days on Mt. Hood.)

Here are some excerpts:

Rubrecht, a 32-year-old former police dispatcher, was named Josephine County’s search coordinator in 2001 with no prior experience in the field… “I’m not afraid to tell anybody that [this case] was overwhelming — beyond anything I’d ever handled before,” she said.

[Dec. 2] Rubrecht tried to phone her boss, Josephine County Undersheriff Brian Anderson, who was watching the Oregon State-Hawaii game. He said he chose not to take the call, noting that it was his day off.

[Dec. 3] As the authorities deliberated, a local helicopter pilot set out on his own… John Rachor grew ever more certain over the weekend where the Kim family was stranded. At 10:30 a.m., he lifted off in his own four-seat helicopter, convinced he could find them. Rachor, who runs a string of Burger Kings, asked no one where to look. He said he flew straight to Bear Camp Road and logging road 34-8-36.

Three days later, James Kim’s body was found.