Father, Two Sons Die of Exposure on Missouri Trail

Father, Two Sons Die of Exposure on Missouri Trail

News Jan 14, 2013

Jan. 14--REYNOLDS COUNTY, MO. -- A father and his two sons from Millstadt died from the cold over Saturday night on the Ozark Trail in Reynolds County, Mo., authorities said Sunday.

They were found Sunday morning in the daylight on the bluffs near Black, Mo., with their 4-month-old Labrador retriever, Bear, beside them. David Decareaux, 36, was pronounced dead at the scene by Reynolds County Coroner Jeff McSpadden. The two boys -- Dominic, 10, and Grant, 8 -- were carried out of the woods while CPR was administered. They died about 2 p.m. Sunday at a hospital in Ellington, Mo.

Reynolds County Sheriff Tom Volner said that extensive searches in the dark by horseback, on foot and by vehicles on back trails and county roads had failed to turn up the missing father and sons Saturday night.

Volner said the Decareaux family had traveled to Reynolds County for a family trip and to go hiking. David Decareaux was accompanied by his wife and their five children.

About 10:30 a.m. Saturday, the father and two sons set out for a hike from the Brushy Creek Lodge for Sutton's Bluff on the Ozark Trail.

"When they took off in the morning, it was near 60 degrees," Volner said. David Decareaux had on a light jacket, one son wore a fleece pullover and the other a sweater, the sheriff said.

"They were last seen by a passer-by at about 2 p.m. (Saturday) on top of Sutton's Bluff," Volner said. "At the time it was raining, and the passer-by asked if they needed a ride. David told the gentleman they could make it back."

During the course of the day, heavy rain set in, and at night the temperature plummeted. Trails became impassable.

Brushy Creek Lodge personnel called the sheriff's department between 6 and 7 p.m. Saturday after Decareaux's wife became concerned. She said that her husband and the boys knew to hunker down in similar bad weather situations and were experienced hikers. However, as the hour grew later, they became concerned.

The sheriff's department organized a search party of about 50 people to scour roads and woods.

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In addition to sheriff's deputies, the search party included volunteers from the Northern Reynolds County Fire Protection District, Reynolds County Ambulance, U.S. Forest Rangers, people from Brushy Creek Lodge and others. They searched until about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, when the effort was called off because of fast-rising creeks and flash flooding on roads and creeks.

In the morning, the sheriff put out announcements on a local radio station for additional help. It had rained all night, and when the hikers were found, they were soaking wet. Temperatures had dropped into the 20s.

"We get lost hikers all the time, but we have never had this happen," Volner said in an interview Sunday night.

The boys' mother came to the hospital. She could not be reached Sunday night.

Volner added, "I want to give a big thank you to all the people who helped, to the workers at Brushy Creek Lodge, to everyone, for trying to find them, for CPR, for everything."

Copyright 2013 - St. Louis Post-Dispatch

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Margaret Gillerman
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