Diver who helped in cave res­cue says he is not a hero

Bri­ton was part of team with ‘unique skill set’ who found boys

The Scotsman - - News Digest - By AN­GUS HOWARTH

One of the divers who helped save 12 school­boys and their foot­ball coach from a flooded cave in Thai­land played down his ac­tions as he re­turned to Bri­tain.

Rick Stan­ton de­nied he was a hero and said he was us­ing a “very unique skill set” to “give some­thing back to the com­mu­nity”.

Mr Stan­ton and sev­eral other Bri­tish divers joined the res­cue mis­sion af­ter the foot­ball team be­came trapped in a cave net­work in Chi­ang Rai prov­ince fol­low­ing mon­soon rains.

The re­tired fire­man, from Coven­try, and his col­league, John Volan­then, from Bris­tol, were the first divers to reach the stranded group in the Luang Nang Non Cave.

They launched a mis­sion to res­cue the boys and their 25-year-old coach, which ended with all 12 boys and the coach re­turned to safety on Tues­day af­ter an 18-day or­deal.

The op­er­a­tion claimed the life of Thai navy diver Sa­man Ku­nan, who died while re­plen­ish­ing oxy­gen can­is­ters.

It was a par­tic­u­larly treach­er­ous op­er­a­tion, as the boys, aged 11 to 16, had to swim through tight spaces de­spite hav­ing no pre­vi­ous div­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Speak­ing on his re­turn to the UK, Mr Stan­ton said: “Are we he­roes? No, we were just us­ing a very unique skill set, which we nor­mally use for our own in­ter­ests, and some­times we are able to use that and give some­thing back to the com­mu­nity.

“This

was

com­pletely un­charted, un­prece­dented ter­ri­tory and noth­ing like this has been done. So, of course there were doubts.

“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.”

Mr Stan­ton de­scribed his re­lief as he and Mr Volan­then dis­cov­ered that the boys were still alive – nine days af­ter they went miss­ing deep within the labyrinth.

“Ini­tially, of course, ex­cite­ment, re­lief that they were still alive. As they were com­ing down the slope, we were count­ing them un­til we got to 13 … un­be­liev­able,” he said. “We gave them a lit­tle bit of ex­tra light, they still had light, they looked in good health.

“Then, of course, when we de­parted, all we could think about was how we were go­ing to get them out.

“So there was re­lief, tem­pered with un­cer­tainty.”

Mr Stan­ton would not de­scribe how his team res­cued the chil­dren, say­ing it was “too de­tailed for this point in time”.

At a press con­fer­ence at Heathrow Air­port, Mr Stan­ton de­clined to an­swer any med­i­cal ques­tions. Asked if he would see the boys again, he replied: “I will see them some­time in the fu­ture. It will be good to get clo­sure.”

PIC­TURE: STEVE PAR­SONS/PA

Diver Rick Stan­ton said he would see the boys again ‘some­time in the fu­ture’

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