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Father, Sons Die Hiking After Weather Turns Severe

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WATERLOO, IL (KTVI) - Our sudden blast of winter led to the deaths of a Millstadt, Illinois, man and his two young sons over the weekend, authorities said.

People were grieving from Illinois to the state of Louisiana, Monday night, after a family hiking trip along the Ozark Trail ended so tragically.  

David Decareaux, 36, sons, Dominic, 10, and Grant, 8, died from exposure to rain and sub-freezing temperatures, authorities said.  

The Decareaux family has deep roots in Waterloo, Illinois.

If you graduate high school there, you never truly, move away.   So, Waterloo was ready to wrap its arms round Sarah Hartrum, class of '95. She became Sarah Decareaux, moving around the world and starting a family with her Air Force husband, David.

What a family:  5 children; 3 boys, 2 girls.  

They'd just moved back to a house in Millstadt after David got a civilian Department of Defense job at Scott Air Force Base.

"I had just met the kids at Dairy Queen like a month ago, two months ago, after a chorus concert," said Cherie Wenger of Waterloo.  "It's just very devastating."

The family was camping in Reynolds County over the weekend. David, Dominic, and Grant Decareaux went for a hike near the Bushy Creek Lodge Saturday morning, said Reynolds County Sheriff Tom Volner.

Police were called around 6:30 pm Saturday when they didn’t return to the lodge where they were staying. A search was launched, but was called off around midnight when flood waters made the trail impassable.  The search resumed Sunday around 7:00 am. A searcher found them, lifeless, nearly 24 hours later after the call to police.  

David Decareaux was pronounced dead at the scene.  His sons were taken to the hospital where they died.

Volner said the weather turned on them; heavy rain and a sudden temperature drop of about 40 degrees. They weren't prepared.

"The temperature was about 60 degrees when they set out.  They were seen around 2:00 at Sutton's Bluff.  By that time the heavy rains had set in. They were all avid hikers.  It's just because the storm moving as quick as it did, and the weather and temperatures, that it was actually exposure," Volner said.

"It's devastating.  I think the whole town is probably just mortified about it.  It's horrible," Wenger said.

The other three children are ages 11, 4, and 2.  

A priest who met with the family says their faith in God was remarkable.  

So is the support they're getting.  Family and friends from where David is from in Louisiana and where his father was a long-time firefighter are coming up for the funerals.  

They will be held together, with visitation Thursday from 4:00-8:00, and Friday morning from 8:00-9:30 at Quernheim Funeral Home in Waterloo.

The funeral services will be there and will immediately follow the Friday morning visitation, with burials at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.

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