By Kevin Murphy
KANSAS CITY, Mo., Jan 14 (Reuters) - An Illinois man and two of his sons died from exposure to freezing temperatures during a weekend hike in the Ozark Mountains in southeast Missouri, authorities said on Monday.
Rescue crews found David Decareaux, 36, and sons Dominic, 10, and Grant, 8, on a rocky bluff Sunday morning, Reynolds County Sheriff Tom Volner said.
The father was pronounced dead at the scene and the boys later died at a hospital, Volner said.
Decareaux, his wife and five children of Millstadt, Illinois, were staying at an Ozarks lodge, Volner said. They were experienced hikers, he said.
"It's just a tragic loss," Volner said. "It's really hard when you lose half of a family like that,"
The cause of death was hypothermia, said Jeff McSpadden, Reynolds County Coroner. When the three hikers left Saturday morning, the temperature was in the 50s and they were dressed in light outerwear, he said. Rain moved into the area and temperatures plunged to the mid-20s overnight.
"I guess they didn't think about the weather coming in and were not dressed for the cold," McSpadden said.
A motorist saw Decareaux and the boys in the rain early on Saturday afternoon and asked if they wanted a ride but the father declined, Volner said. The trio was reported missing about nightfall, he said.
A search by about 50 law enforcement officers, firefighters and others on foot, horseback and in vehicles failed to locate the lost hikers. The search was scaled back after midnight because of rapidly rising creeks and flash flooding, Volner said.
The trio was found on Sunday morning on a bluff on the trail, Volner said. They had missed a turn that would have returned them to the lodge, he said. CPR was performed on the boys and they were transferred to a hospital, but died, he said.
A four-month-old Labrador dog, who was on the hike, survived, Volner said. (Editing by James B. Kelleher, Greg McCune and Carol Bishopric)