Search teams find bodies of missing Corpus Christi hikers

Bodies of Corpus Christi hikers found

CARLSBAD, N.M. (KIII NEWS) - Robert and Bobby Pluta, a father and son from Corpus Christi who went missing June 14 after checking in at their hotel in Carlsbad, New Mexico, were found dead Tuesday.

The two had planned a hiking trip to Carlsbad Caverns National Park and had not been seen since checking into their hotel.

"Robert and Bobby were just looking forward to this Father's Day trip they put off a couple times and finally decided to go," said Pastor Mark Behrendt of Galilean Lutheran Church. "To have this happen is just overwhelming."

After relatives had not heard from Robert and Bobby since June 14, they alerted police on Monday. New Mexico State Police began their search and eventually found the Plutas red Ford F150 truck at a Carlsbad Caverns National Park trailhead.

Park Rangers helped New Mexico State Police in the search effort until Tuesday afternoon, when their bodies were found.

"Robert though, was always grinning," Behrendt said. "He was always great to be around, and he and his boys actually came to several of our Men in Missions Build-A-Bench workshops for our camps up north. And Bobby had just become over the last half a year the guy who was recording our worship services."

New Mexico State Police released this statement:

"Yesterday June 19, 2017 around 2:52 p.m. the New Mexico State Police were notified of missing hikers in the area of the Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
NMSP received information from the wife of Robert Stuart Pluta (57) that he and their son, Robert Neal Pluta (21) both of Corpus Christi, TX., had not been heard from since Wednesday evening June 14, 2017.
She had attempted to contact them numerous times throughout the weekend unsuccessfully, she contacted the local hotel where they were staying and learned that they had not checked out, she then immediately notified Law Enforcement.
Shortly thereafter The U.S. Park Service located the Pluta's vehicle on a trailhead just northwest of Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico State Police Officers on scene requested a Search and Rescue be initiated.
During the following two hours, a search was done at the hotel for indications of where the lost hikers may be which yielded no results, along with an attempt to locate them through cellular tracking methods.
By early evening several search and rescue teams were actively searching the area, and discovered a deceased male individual around 10:05 p.m. approximately two miles northwest of the caverns.
This morning Tuesday June 20, 2017 around 6:00 a.m. the search resumed to include New Mexico State Police, New Mexico Search and rescue, New Mexico Game and Fish, US Park Service, Eddy County Search and Rescue.  United States Border Patrol and New Mexico National Guard both sent helicopters to assist with the search, and tracking dogs also were deployed in the area.
Around 10:42 a.m. the second hiker was found deceased approximately a mile from the location of the first hiker.
The mission transformed from rescue to recovery with all agencies below assisting one another to remove the deceased from the area:

New Mexico State Police
United State Park Service
New Mexico State Search and Rescue
Eddy County Search and Rescue
Mesilla valley Search and Rescue
Organ Mountain Technical Rescue
Eddy County fire Service
US Forest Service
Customs and Border Protection
Native Air Ambulance

The day time temperatures in the Carlsbad Caverns area have been in excess of one hundred degrees since the 15th of June, 2017.
This is an ongoing investigation no further information is available."

© 2017 KIII-TV


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