We're not heroes, says British diver who led Thai cave rescue

Harry Averill Kera Rolson

Harry Averill Kera Rolson

Nevertheless, the Thai Navy SEAL diving team, who controlled the operation to rescue, have been celebrated for their efforts in their home country.

The father of 14-year-old Ekkarat Wongsukchan said the coach dived into the water to see their circumstances once they became trapped, and drew arrows on the cave wall so no one became lost.

But he said: "The most important thing to have was a full face mask which had been applied inside with positive pressure to enable them to breathe and to be relaxed enough so not to feel any anxiety during the process".

"All we could think about was how we were going to get them out, so there was relief tempered with uncertainty", he said.

British divers Richard Stanton, left, and John Volanthen at the base camp for the rescue operation last week. They were then carried on stretchers through dry parts to the cave's entrance. Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osatanakorn announced on Monday that the boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach were being rescued from Tham Luang Nang Non cave after they were discovered by naval special forces and the challenge now will be to extract the party safely.

The boys meant to explore the cave for just an hour, a casual jaunt to relax after soccer practice, but the waters rose. "I'd already counted them, they were already there". "When they were hungry Coach Ek would use a flashlight to shine on the stalactites above", he said.

It's an inspiring story fit for Hollywood: 12 courageous young soccer players trapped in a flooded cave for two weeks, dauntless rescuers risking life and limb to save the team, a wave of support from dozens of countries as the world watched with bated breath for the rescuers to emerge victorious with the Wild Boars safe in hand.

Volunteers celebrate at a makeshift press centre in Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province on July 10, 2018, after the twelve boys and their football coach were rescued.

'We gave them a little bit of extra light, they still had light, they looked in good health.

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The aim was to learn how to "tightly package" each of the boys in order to easily maneuver them through tight passageways and adjust their air supply as needed.

A former Thai Navy SEAL died while helping install oxygen tanks in preparation for the extraction.

Some parents held their hands together in a traditional Thai wai gesture of thanks, while others hugged and embraced the heroes.

But Mr Volanthen dismissed the idea, adding: "We are not heroes".

Speaking on his return to the UK, Mr Stanton said: 'Are we heroes? It's very calm, it's quite the opposite ...

'I knew that we had a good team, with good support from the Thai authorities, the caving community and rescue organisations, so we had the best we could do to make a plan work'.

"How many of you?" he asked, a torch beam scanning the boys crowded on the bank.

As he flew back to Australia on Friday, he told how he and his Australian dive partner, retired Perth vet Craig Challen, were supported by divers from Thailand, the United Kingdom and Europe as the 12 members of the soccer team and their coach were freed.

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