Carlsbad Caverns National Park in southeastern New Mexico contains 119 caves, but only three are open to the public. Exploration of the Lechuguilla Cave, discovered in 1986, has revealed it is the seventh largest cave in the world and the deepest in the United States. It contains 138 miles of tunnels and rooms filled with rare formations and unusual geology.
In November, 2008, three fire-fighting pals from the Pecos River Fire Attack Crew trespassed into the Lechuguilla Cave. Jimmy, Bob, and Matt, experienced spelunkers, made the long-planned trip even though Matt had been fired from the crew the previous summer.
When the men failed to return to their Carlsbad homes, their wives reluctantly reported them missing to the National Park Service. The women feared their men would be prosecuted and fined for the trespass and held responsible for the search and rescue costs.
Jimmy’s and Bob’s broken bodies were found at the bottom of a 200 feet deep chasm known as The Rift. They had consumed all of their food, and their batteries were drained. The rescuers concluded the spelunkers got lost and fell to their deaths while searching for an exit in the cave’s total darkness.
Matthew Horton’s body has never been found.
The Jupiter-Saturn Insurance Corporation expects Matt’s wife, Alice, to seek, in November of 2015, a court-issued Declaration of Death and file a claim for Matt’s two million dollar life insurance policy. It sends private investigator Dan Ballantine to New Mexico to search for Matthew Horton.