Father, sons die hiking after missed turn in Missouri mountains
A father and his two young sons died after taking a wrong turn on a hike in Missouri and being caught in freezing temperatures and a rainstorm. Their Labrador puppy survived and was still with them when authorities arrived.
On a weekend trip that was a surprise anniversary gift for his wife, an outdoors-loving Air Force veteran ventured out with two of his sons for a hike on a remote trail. Clad only in light jackets and sweaters, the three apparently didn't know how rapidly the weather would turn ugly, and that proved deadly.Skip to next paragraph
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Searchers found the soaked bodies of 36-year-old David Decareaux and the two boys — ages 8 and 10 — on the Ozark Trail on Sunday, a day after Decareaux declined a passerby's offer of a ride back to the lodge where they had been staying, Reynolds County Sheriff Tom Volner said. The cold had killed them, he said.
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Only the family's 4-month-old yellow Labrador retriever survived the hike. He was found near Decareaux, who died at the scene, and the two boys, who were declared dead at a hospital after hours of efforts to revive them failed.
The tragedy crushed Decareaux's father-in-law, Keith Hartrum, who described the family as tightly knit, "always on the go and adventurous."
"Dave was a great guy, a good father, son-in-law and husband," Hartrum told The Associated Press. "Those two boys were just precious — smart, very nice kids."
It was nearly 60 degrees Saturday morning when Decareaux and his sons set out on the popular trail that runs through a sparsely populated area of southeast Missouri. Decareaux was wearing only a light jacket, while one of his sons was clad in a fleece pullover, and the other a sweater, Volner said.
They were ill-equipped as the temperature sank into the 40s, and a storm that would drop 2 inches of rain set in, making the trail all but impassable.
Volner said there are no caves or other places of refuge along the trail. Although Decareaux had a cellphone and flashlight with him, both devices lost power at some point, his wife, Sarah, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday.
A passer-by spotted the hikers more than three hours into their journey and asked if they needed a ride back to the Brushy Creek Lodge near Black, where Decareaux's wife and their three other children — ages 12, 4 and 2 — were staying. But Decareaux declined, telling the man they could make it back, the sheriff said.