James Kim, a senior editor for the technology media company CNET, was found dead today after being snowbound with his family while driving on Bear Camp Road in southern Oregon, a single-lane Forest Service road that is unplowed during winter due to impassable snowdrifts. His family stayed in the car for nearly a week and survived. James Kim left the car after about five days to try to find help, and died.
Apparently, the Kims missed the Highway 42 exit near Roseburg, Oregon and may have used online mapping software to find how to get to Gold Beach, Oregon, their next destination on the way back to San Francisco (and, given the snow in the Grants Pass area, a good route to take if you don't have chains or all-weather tires.)
As it says on the Gold Beach, Oregon website:
Yahoo and MapQuest offer Highways 199 and 101 as the preferred route. A Google map search, however, can potentially suggest the Bear Camp Rd. route, assuming you miss the Highway 42 exit.
Regarding Bear Camp Road (also known as Merlin-Galice Road, Forest Service Road 33); This is NOT a highway and is not a maintained thoroughfare! Although on some maps it may appear to be a more direct route to Gold Beach, it's not a highway in any sense. It's a forest service road, closed in winter, and is mostly one-lane with no fog lines, no guard rails, no shoulder, and plenty of wash-outs, mudslides and potholes. Cell phones don't work in much of that area and after you pass the Agness turnoff, there is nothing but wilderness until you get to the other side of the mountain range at I-5.
... which, incidentally, was the exact highway exit we took on the same day, Saturday, Nov. 25th, to visit my sister. The Kim family just missed their exit... which, given the area, is pretty easy to do.
*UPDATE* - As a matter of fairness, I don't think people should blame Google Maps, specifically. While many maps of Oregon do have the road marked as being closed during winter, many others don't... including the one I have of Oregon. Likewise, I hear that some of the older GPS systems also direct people onto that road, so perhaps it just goes to show the danger of having conflicting information out there, large blind spots where people can't access others, etc. It should be pointed out that authorities used a signal sent by the Kims' cell phone to narrow the search, so technology can certainly be said to be a two-edged sword in this case.