A hiking trip took a tragic turn for an Air Force veteran and his two sons, who were out on a hike with their puppy when they got caught in a freak storm. Air Force veteran David Decareaux, 36 and his sons Grant, 8 and Dominic, 10, died from hypothermia hiking in Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri.
The trio was hiking on the Ozark Trail with their 4-month old Labrador Retriever puppy Bear wearing light jackets and sweaters.
When they began on their hike the the temperatures in the park were in the 60s (15 C). Later in the day it began to rain heavily and temperatures dropped into the 20s (-6 C).
It appears they took a wrong turn on their way back to the lodge where they were staying.
"They just missed their turn back to the lodge," Reynolds County Sherriff Tom Volner said. "By that time, their light played out. You don't have any ambient light down here because there are no cities or towns. When it's dark you can't see the back of your hand."
He noted that the trail marker is noted by "little-bitty 2-inch markers" - the kind of thing that could be overlooked in darkness, rain or due to stress.
A search was called when Decareaux and his sons did not appear by early evening back at the lodge where Decareaux's wife and three other children were waiting for them to return.
The search involved more than 50 volunteers on foot, horseback and in vehicles. But the search had to be called off at about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, when flash-flooding in creeks forced searchers to back off until daylight.
The trio were found in the morning, just a mile from the lodge. Decareaux died at the scene and the boys died later at hospital where efforts were made to revive them. Bear was found alive and had never left their side.
Decareaux's father-in-law, Keith Hartrum, who described the family as tightly knit, "always on the go and adventurous" is heartbroken by the tragedy. He told the Associated Press that Decareaux was an experienced hiker "who just got caught up (last weekend) in a freak situation" that proved fatal. "Dave was a great guy, a good father, son-in-law and husband," Hartrum said. "Those two boys were just precious — smart, very nice kids."
Stock photograph used
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