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. 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, said the local sheriff. The cold killed them.
Only the family's 4-month-old yellow Labrador retriever survived. 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. It was nearly 60 degrees Saturday morning when Decareaux and his sons set out on the popular trail in southeast Missouri. 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. A passer-by spotted the hikers more than three hours into their journey and asked if they needed a ride back, but Decareaux declined. "They just missed their turn back to the lodge," the sheriff said. "When it's dark you can't see the back of your hand." (Read more hikers stories.)