Funeral arrangements have been made for a Millstadt father and his two young sons who died in a hiking accident during the weekend in southern Missouri.
Visitation for David Decareaux, 36 originally from Matairie, La., and his sons Dominic, 10, and Grant, 8, is from 4-8 p.m. Thursday at the Quernheim Funeral Home in Waterloo.
The funeral will be at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the funeral home. Decareaux, a 10-year Air Force Veteran who worked in national security for the Department of Defense, will be buried with his sons at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis.
Decareaux and his sons were hiking with their Labrador retriever Saturday on the Mark Twain National Forest's Ozark Trail near Black, Mo., when they were caught in a storm and got lost on their way back to the Brushy Creek Lodge, where they were staying with the rest of their family.
They missed their turn on the trail, according to Reynolds County Sheriff Tom Volner, and ended up stranded after dark on trails made impassible by the bad weather. They were dressed only in light clothes because the temperature was in the 60s when they left camp. But the storm brought temperatures down into the 20s with freezing rain and snow.
Volner said Decareaux had a cell phone and flashlight, but the batteries were dead.
Experts say other hikers should take note: Don't take any foray into a forest for granted, particularly during the winter when daylight is shorter and weather can be unforgiving.
"It's not Disneyland," said Charlotte Wiggins, a spokeswoman for the forest. "There are different conditions than you'll find in a park area."
Pete Olsen, the American Hiking Society's vice president of programs, said it is important to tell someone where you're going and when you expect to return, giving an idea of where searchers should look if you're late.
"Nobody ever plans on getting lost," Olsen said.
He urged adventurers to take rain gear and extra food and dress in layers, especially in mountainous areas where temperatures at the bottom may be much warmer than the temperature at elevation. Taking a whistle to help alert searchers also wouldn't be a bad idea.
"The more well-prepared you are, the better you'll fare," said Dr. Mark Levine, an emergency physician at St. Louis' Barnes-Jewish Hospital. In Decareaux's case, "everything worked against him."
Decareaux and his sons are survived by his wife, Sarah, who is originally from Waterloo, and three other children, Kate, Finn and Elise.
Those close to the family are mourning the tragic loss including members of the Scott Area Military Home Educators, which the Decareaux family joined in August.
Deb Giles, leader of the group, said the family participated in the organization's co-op classes and band.
"The family was very close and tightly knit. The boys (Dominic and Grant) loved the outdoors," Giles said. "The two boys were wiser beyond their years. When you talked to them, they were just very knowledgeable about a little bit of everything. They were always a pleasure to be around and they will be sorely missed. Sarah and the family are in our prayers."
Reporter Jamie Forsythe and the Associated Press contributed to this article.