A mom of five kids sent her husband and two sons aged 8 and 10 -- supposedly all experienced hikers -- off into the woods on Saturday morning, and just two days later, half her family is gone. Who ever thinks something as sweet and safe as going for a walk in the forest could be deadly? Not me, not ever, not once when my kids who are the same ages as those boys go hiking with their own experienced hiker dad, practically a weekly occurrence. I can't imagine anyone thinking you could freeze to death in the woods when the temperature doesn't even get below 20, but as this story reminds us, you cannot take these adventures too lightly -- literally.
The man, David Decareaux, 36, left with Dominic and Grant Saturday morning for a hike in the Ozark Mountains in southeast Missouri. The temperature was in the 50s during the day but plunged to 20 at night, and it was raining, which makes damp and cold that much more clenching when you're not wearing warm enough clothes. Apparently the trio were not. And that's not too surprising when it comes to children -- whose children don't constantly fight their parents about wearing coats and warm boots, preferring to dress like it's July and not the middle of winter?
Maybe it was the rain and flash floods, or maybe they just got disoriented, but the hikers somehow missed the trail that would have taken them back to the lodge where they were staying and got lost. We always tend to forget that even landscape that is familiar in the daylight can turn wild and unforgiving in the dark of night, especially in bad weather.
About 50 rescuers scanned the area Saturday night after the poor mom reported them missing, but the search was scaled back before midnight due to the dreadful weather. The three were found the next morning on a bluff, where they probably sought shelter, but it was too late: The dad was already dead, and the boys died later at the hospital. I can only imagine that the father died holding and sheltering his boys from the elements as best he could, and the difference even finding them an hour earlier could have made ...
As if this story couldn't get any sadder, there was one survivor: The family's faithful Labrador Retriever was found next to the bodies.
Image via Victoria - Ozarks Crescent Mural/Flickr