Monday, January 28, 2013

Another Tragic Story That Didn't Have to Happen

A young father and his two sons died after getting lost while hiking a mountain trail in Missouri. And it didn't have to happen.

The victims were 36-year-old David Decareaux and his sons who were 8 and 10 years old respectively. The guys were out for what was intended to be only a day hike, while Decareaux's wife and three other children were staying at a nearby lodge.

With their family dog along for the hike, Decareaux and his boys headed off along a stretch of hiking trail that crossed a sparsely populated region of southeast Missouri. According to reports, Decareaux knew the trail, but apparently took a wrong turn and ended up getting lost while trying to find their way back to the lodge.

A rain storm overtook them, and temperatures dropped from the 60s to the 20s as the day wore on. None of them were dressed for that kind of weather, and when heavy rain started to fall, there were no caves, overhangs or other natural places to seek shelter.

At 7 p.m. that evening, lodge officials called the sheriff's department, because Decareaux and his sons had failed to return as planned. A search was started, with more than 50 volunteers on foot, horseback and in vehicles. Just after midnight, flash flooding in the creeks forced searchers to abandon the mission until daylight.

The next morning, the bodies of Decareaux and his sons were found. The loyal family dog was still beside them … the sole survivor of the ordeal.

It's always a tragedy when something like this happens. And what makes it worse is that it could so easily have been avoided by following one simple principle of outdoor survival. Always be prepared to stay out there longer than you planned.
  • Survival situations never announce themselves in advance. 
  • They sneak up on you unexpected. 
  • The only way to make sure you're not caught unawares is to be prepared to stay outdoors as long as long as it takes for the situation to sort itself out. 
  • If it's bad weather, you must be able to survive it until the storm subsides. 
  • If it's an injury, you must be able to survive until you are well enough to hike out. 
Day Hike Syndrome is a killer — it's when you think you're going on just a short little hike and will be back before dark. When that doesn't work out as planned, you end up with tragic stories like this one.


  1. I don't know if it was a flood that got them but I'm always surprised about news from that part of the country about people dying in floods. You would think that by now they would at least be smart enough to seek higher ground for shelter if lost.

  2. It wasn't a flood that got them. The flooding only caused the search and rescue teams to discontinue the search until morning. The man and his sons died of hypothermia brought about because they were unprepared to shelter themselves from the cold and rain. The dad was wearing only a light jacket, and the sons had light fleece jackets. When the became drenched by the rain, and the ambient temperature dropped and the wind picked up, it situation had hypothermia written all over it. Even the most experienced weather forecasters can't always get it right, so we would be wise to plan for the worst and take good clothing and some emergency shelter along even on a "day hike."

  3. Even in July here I take a warm jacket with me on hikes. And a good pocket knife and lighter, and more often than not, a gun.

  4. What would have helped these folks the most would have been something like a tube tent that they could all crawl inside and hunker down, staying dry and sharing their body warmth. A Space Blanket, a poncho, wet-weather clothing — anything. but they didn't have any of it. They needed shelter most of all — quickly, so they could stay dry. Once you're wet, it awfully hard to stay warm. Body core temperature leaks out real fast when you're in wet clothes. Even a fire wouldn't have done them much good if they couldn't stay dry. But i'd take a fire any day, and build up some kind of rain and wind protection from whatever I could find in the forest.

  5. I've been in that part of the country so I know that there was plenty of ways for them to find or make shelter from the wet if they had used their heads.

  6. Where would I not like to get stuck in a cold overnight rain? A lot of Arizona and Nevada comes to mind.

  7. Yes, it's almost always possible to find or fabricate some kind of shelter, if you know what you're doing. But you have to be creative with the natural resources sometimes. And most folks don't think in those terms, so I always recommend that people carry some ready-to-use shelter materials with them. Doesn't take much and doesn't have to cost much. But it's worth it, especially if you have children along and you want to make sure they are safe.

  8. way i would have handled the issue . if the temps got below freezing . i would have dug a hole a deep hole and then tried to cover the top with twigs and grass like a.trench why because the ground temperature shouldnt have gotten below 40 or 50 degrees like the air and water temp was at 20 or below -so once i got deep enought to be out of the wind and if i had to loaded the bottom with rocks to allow water drainage the temps would have been ground temp not water or air temp . and not to sound perverted but in survival issues to keep from getting hypothermia in wet weather the eskimos huddle and even sleep together with no close on for body temp reasons and they also keep each other awake and they also rubb on each other to add warmth and circulation .. anyways then the guy could have tried to build a fire from twigs a small one at the end of the hole even on a dug out ledge if the rain was coming directly down so it wouldnt put the fire or coals out . but thats what i would have done and i sure as hell would have used the dog as a mobile electric blanket and fuzzy pillow :}

  9. I appreciate your comments. A hole in the ground presents its own set of problems. One is that it collects water, so you end up sitting or lying in a puddle. Cold air also settles into the low spots, so no matter what the ground temperature was, the air in the hole would likely be cold. On a practical matter, without tools, it would be very difficult to dig a hole large enough for three people. Staying dry is the most important consideration, because once you're wet, it's impossible to retain body temperature. Getting up off the ground, so you can stay dry, and fabricating a wind and rain barrier would be a good strategy. And you're right about the huddling technique for sharing body warmth. Thanks again for your insights.