Hum­ble Jim plays down cave rescue ef­forts

Irish Daily Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - BY gor­don DEE­GAN

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

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