Reynolds County Sheriff Tom Volner, as cited by Reuters, says 36-year-old David Decareaux of Millstadt, Ill., and his sons were found Sunday, a day after they ventured out on the trail in the Ozarks.
According to reports, Decareaux was pronounced dead at the scene and the boys, Dominic, 10, and Grant, 8, later died at a hospital. The cause of death was hypothermia.
Volner, as cited by Reuters, said Decareaux, his wife and five children were staying at an Ozarks lodge. He said Decareaux, an Air Force veteran known as an experienced hiker, knew the trail but apparently took a wrong turn and was ill-equipped for temperatures that sank from 60 degrees to the 20s.
"It's just a tragic loss," Volner said. "It's really hard when you lose half of a family like that."
Reports indicate that when the three hikers left Saturday morning, the temperature was in the 50s and they were dressed in light outerwear. Rain eventually moved into the area before 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," Reynolds County Coroner Jeff McSpadden told reporters.
In further developments, a motorist has come forward who said that he found Decareaux and the boys in the rain early on Saturday afternoon and asked if they wanted a ride but the father declined. The trio was reported missing about nightfall.
A search that involved about 50 law enforcement officers, firefighters and others on foot, horseback and in vehicles was eventually scaled back after midnight Saturday because of rapidly rising creeks and flash flooding.
The trio was found on Sunday morning on a bluff on the trail, Volner said. CPR was performed on the boys before they were transferred to a hospital, where they eventually died.