Learning from a Tragedy in Missouri

wilderness tragedy

A few weeks ago I read a story in the mainstream media that really hit me at my core. It was a small blip in the national news, but the tragedy has stayed with me.

A man in his late 30’s, retired from the Air Force, took two of his sons for a day hike in Missouri. A devoted family man married for 14 years, he was being a good dad and getting his pre-teen boys out to enjoy God’s creation.

Unseasonably warm with highs in the low 60s F, the weather was perfect for hiking. The trio grabbed their lightweight jackets and set out for the afternoon. They had planned to only be gone a few hours.

On their way back to their vehicle, they took wrong turn on the trail, a misstep that led the small group further away from their vehicle.

Dusk was rapidly approaching and, with it, a storm front. Temperatures quickly dropped into the mid-20s F and freezing rain pelted down on the unprepared hikers.

The man’s wife notified authorities at 7:00pm that the group had not returned as expected. But the weather proved more than a match for the 50 would-be rescuers. At 12:30am, emergency crews were sidelined until morning for their own safety.

The man and the two boys, 8 and 10, perished that night, succumbing to exposure in the cold wet conditions.

My heart goes out to the father as he watched his cold and scared boys struggle for their tenders lives, helpless to assist or protect them. I feel for the mother and their three children left behind to deal with the new void in their lives. It’s truly saddening.

As I said before, this hit home for me. In the past, I’ve struck out less prepared than I should have been. I’ve ventured down trails without a map, with only a lightweight jacket, and without a sufficiently stocked daypack. I have arrogantly assumed “It’ll never happen to me.”

Please don’t misunderstand; I’m not speaking ill of the man or his boys. The article doesn’t say what training he had or the supplies he may have carried with him. And I’m not making any assumptions about it. I’m only talking about me and the foolhardy mistakes that I have made in the past. But for the grace of God, this tragedy could have been me.

This is yet another reason why I practice what I now preach. I make sure that I carry adequate “just-in-case” supplies when I leave home. Whether it’s commuting to work or setting out on a trek through the woods, I carry a stocked backpack. I continually learn new skills and practice the ones that I’ve already learned.

And I make sure that my kids are doing the same. I want the next generation to be prepared for the worst while hoping for the best.

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8 Comments on “Learning from a Tragedy in Missouri”

  1. Jarhead Survivor Says:

    Very sad story. This is classic hypothermia weather too. People tend to think that you only get hypothermic in the winter, but that’s completely untrue. Wet + cold + wind = hypothermia.

    I’ve met several people over the years on hiking trails here in Maine that were totally lost in the winter with night starting to fall and no idea where they were. I asked them, “Where’s your map?” and they didn’t have one. “Where’s your compass?” Same answer.

    Going for a hike with a light but well equipped hiking bag can save your life.

    Great article, Joe. Too bad this guy and his kids had to die. Hopefully others can learn something from it.


  2. sheryl Says:

    very sad, i dont know what one would do. i think make shelter, make fire….if one can. always go away from home prepared with the backpack. light,blanket,emerg shelter, food,matches, compas….always keep near you.


    • Joe Says:

      Yes, Sheryl. Having the supplies and knowledge to use them are important. Having practiced it ahead of time would be invaluable.

      Very sad, indeed.


  3. joe browning Says:

    This is truly a sad tragedy. It makes one wonder what would have made the difference. A GPS, compass and map, three emergency space blankets, each the size of a pack of cigarettes. A tool, like a camp ax to use to fashion a shelter if none were available. Prepping is as much a state of mind as it is stockpiling supplies. The mind set must be what could possibly happen and not be afraid or lackadaisical about acting on that mind set. As a father it makes hurt to put myself in this poor mans shoes to know as the responsible adult he wasn’t able to protect his children. on a little lighter note: love the site. very informative, please keep it up.


    • Joe Says:

      “As a father it makes hurt to put myself in this poor mans shoes to know as the responsible adult he wasn’t able to protect his children.” I cannot imagine.

      Thanks, Joe Browning



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