I’M NOT A HERO
Humble Jim plays down cave rescue efforts
DIVING hero Jim Warny touched down on home soil yesterday morning after a gruelling mission to rescue 12 boys from a cave.
The dad navigated deep water in perilous conditions to bring the soccer team and their coach to safety.
But Jim from Ennis, Co Clare, insists the real bravery came from the youngsters who “endured way more than us”.
AN Irish-based cave diver who took part in the dramatic rescue of 12 Thai boys arrived home to a hero’s welcome yesterday.
Jim Warny touched down at Shannon Airport where he was greeted by proud fiancee Asia Mania and his dad Rene.
A crowd of 100 people also cheered as he came through the arrivals hall.
Jim, 35, carried out some of the boys trapped in the complex cave to be reunited with their relieved parents.
He said: “It is a truly amazing miracle that through all of those people involved in the rescue those boys got to go home to their families”.
However, he said it was “bittersweet” that Petty Officer First Class Saman Gunan didn’t survive the mission.
Jim added “the true heroes of the operation are those boys who endured way more than us”.
His partner Asia said the past few days have been “very stressful” as she waited for updates on the rescue.
She added: “It has been a nervous time. I truly believe Jim knows what he is doing. I trust him in everything he does – especially when he goes caving.
“I knew he would be back home. I can’t wait to drive home, close the door and be together.”
Jim was at the “front end” of the rescue with a group of English cave divers and confirmed he brought some of the boys to freedom. He said conditions in the cave were difficult “because of the added responsibility of having a human life attached to you”.
The expert received the request for help last Friday and said after discussing the call with his fiancee and family he flew out on Saturday morning.
During his time in Thailand, Jim provided text updates to his nine-yearold son, Ciaran, in Ennis, Co Clare.
Speaking about his efforts, the Belgian national, who has lived in Ireland for 15 years, said: “It was a huge operation. It was a rescue with many teams involved from all over the world. The Thai people were heavily invested in it – they are such a nice and friendly nation.”
Jim added the conditions inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave were harsh.
He said: “Visibility in the water was quite bad. A lot of parts of the cave weren’t flooded, you were diving, walking, swimming, wading.
“It was a very dynamic environment to move through – that is why it required a lot of teams in the earlier sections of the cave and our own team to hand over the boys.
“Luckily enough, our particular team is well used to those conditions through our hobby, that is what we do.
“They are able to manage the risk and the stress and able to perform at the front end of the rescue.”
Jim added he didn’t feel his life was at risk at any stage of the mission. He said: “Cave diving and caving is something I do on a weekly basis.
“It is a highly dangerous activity. That is why we train.
“We are at it for so many years and we are able to manage the risk and the stress and on top of it to bring those boys out which was not an easy feat.”
Speaking of his emotions when the first child was taken out of the cave, he said: “It was a huge feeling, the whole team working together. There were a lot of happy faces around.
“We were focused right until the end – until the final people were taken out of the cave and then everyone was very happy.” Asked if he was apprehensive about participating in the rescue, Jim added: “I knew the job I had to do and I focused on the task at hand.” He said it took a while to formulate a rescue plan “and once we had a plan it moved quickly out of necessity”. The rescuers saved the members of a soccer team and their coach after they had spent nine days in the cave with little food or light when they were discovered on Monday, July 2.
The group of boys and their coach were exploring the caves when a sudden storm caused the passageways to flood, trapping them inside.
Jim said he is happy to be home with friends and family, adding: “I can only imagine how worried they were – I was worried too.” Ennis mayor Claire
Colleran Molloy was the first to greet Jim as the caver and his supporters emerged through the arrivals hall yesterday morning.
She said: “It is wonderful we have a good news story that gives us all a big happy smile.
“We were all watching, hoping and praying there wouldn’t be one boy left behind.
“I was thinking, ‘My God, is it even going to be possible to extract any?’ because I was looking at the very tight areas that were going to have to be traversed.”
Cllr Colleran Molloy said Jim “is bringing great happiness to our county and our town”.
She also praised his “incredible bravery”, adding: “He is the father of a young boy and yet it was very important for him to go and volunteer – to use his skills and expertise to ensure these other 12 boys were brought to safety.”
The Fianna Fail politician said
Clare Co Council will give appropriate recognition in due course to
Jim “for his heroic efforts and his bravery leaving home last weekend to partake in this rescue mission”.
Philip Walker is a friend of the rescuer and a colleague in the Clare Caving Club. Speaking at the airport, he said: “I don’t use the word ‘hero’ loosely, but these cave divers – they are heroes. “They went out there and put themselves on the line going into that cave and to get those children out of the cave was a feat in itself.” Philip, from Yorkshire, said it was essential to come to the airport “and see him home”. He added: “It is important you welcome one of your own back safely and we are very, very proud of him in what he has achieved.”
A veteran of several rescues, Philip told of the mental toughness needed in operations. He said: “On a rescue team, we are all trained to keep a cool head and look at things and analyse. We don’t rush in.”
Jim’s father Rene told how he called him last Friday to say he was flying to Thailand the following day.
He said: “It is a relief he is back. I am glad he is home. He has made it and I am very proud of what he has done.”
ordeal Boys in cave
ORDEAL Boys trapped in Thai cave
TRUE GRIT Jim in action
SEALED WITH A KISS Pair embrace