Anger and sad­ness as Bog­side vi­o­lence con­tin­ues

Yorkshire Post - - NEWS -

ONE OF the divers who helped to save 12 school­boys and their foot­ball coach from a flooded cave in Thai­land played down his hero­ics 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 had joined the res­cue mis­sion af­ter the foot­ball team be­came trapped in an un­der­ground 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 then launched a mis­sion to res­cue the boys and their 25-year-old coach, which con­cluded on Tues­day af­ter an 18-day or­deal.

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

The res­cue was par­tic­u­larly treach­er­ous be­cause 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”.

“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,” he said. “There was a lot of chaos but we were so task-ori­en­tated, fo­cused, and we blanked that out and car­ried on with the job in hand, step by step, un­til we achieved suc­cess.”

Dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at Heathrow Air­port, Mr Stan­ton de­clined to an­swer any med­i­cal ques­tions but said: “They were care­fully han­dled.

“There is a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity, that is all I am pre­pared to say ... There is a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity that an ex­pe­ri­enced diver could han­dle.”

As well as Mr Stan­ton, fel­low divers Chris Jewell and Con­nor Roe, both from Somerset; Josh Bratch­ley, from Devon; Jim Warny, from Co Clare, Ire­land; Mike Clay­ton, from York­shire and Gary Mitchell, from Wales, re­turned to the UK on Fri­day.

Mr Jewell said: “Our role was to help trans­port the boys un­der wa­ter through the cave to bring them out.

“The div­ing con­di­tions were ex­tremely chal­leng­ing, there was poor vis­i­bil­ity and re­spon­si­bil­ity for an­other hu­man be­ing’s life.” Com­ment: Page 16. THE PEO­PLE of Lon­don­derry are an­gry, heart­bro­ken and in­fu­ri­ated by the scenes of vi­o­lence in the Bog­side, the city’s MP has said.

Sinn Fein’s Elisha McCal­lion said some­one would be killed if the dis­or­der was not stopped.

“Peo­ple are ab­so­lutely in­fu­ri­ated that this has come upon our city, peo­ple are quite rightly an­gry and a lot of peo­ple are heart­bro­ken to see this be­ing be­stowed upon our city,” she said. “Peo­ple are very vo­cally say­ing not in their name.”

The five main po­lit­i­cal par­ties in North­ern Ire­land united ear­lier in the week to put out a joint state­ment con­demn­ing the ri­ot­ing.

They were again forth­right in their crit­i­cism yes­ter­day in the af­ter­math of the sixth night of dis­tur­bances on Thurs­day.

Demo­cratic Union­ist leader Ar­lene Foster tweeted: “Re­ally dis­turb­ing scenes last night in Lon­don­derry. Some­one will be killed if this con­tin­ues. The main party lead­ers have jointly called for ri­ot­ing to end. The po­lice are risk­ing life and limb try­ing to tackle this. All vi­o­lence must be con­demned.”

SDLP leader and Foyle MLA (Mem­ber of the Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly) Colum East­wood said the peo­ple of Derry re­fused to be “dragged back”.

“I don’t know what any of this achieves, all it does is de­stroy our own com­mu­nity and send out a ter­ri­ble sig­nal to the world,” he said.

“But it’s not the right sig­nal – the peo­ple of Derry are mov­ing on, they have moved on.”

Ul­ster Union­ist MLA Doug Beat­tie said the vi­o­lence was or­ches­trated by “cow­ards hid­ing in the shad­ows”.

“What we have had from day one – in fact from a num­ber of weeks pre­vi­ously – is or­ches­trated ri­ot­ing by vi­o­lent repub­li­cans in or­der to cre­ate a re­ac­tion from the po­lice to jus­tify their ac­tions,” he said.

“It is quite de­lib­er­ate and it is straight out of the re­pub­li­can ter­ror man­ual, where grown men co­erce chil­dren to do their vile dirty work for them.”

Mr Beat­tie said those or­ches­trat­ing the vi­o­lence had to be tar­geted by the po­lice and jus­tice sys­tem.

“These so-called brave men and women sit­ting at home or in the pubs drink­ing, hide in the shad­ows, while chil­dren de­stroy the rep­u­ta­tion of the city and those that live in it,” he said.

Al­liance Party leader Naomi Long said: “It is clearly a de­lib­er­ate at­tempt by dis­si­dent repub­li­cans to in­tim­i­date a mi­nor­ity, raise sec­tar­ian ten­sions and re­cruit a new gen­er­a­tion of young peo­ple to their ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Diver Rick Stan­ton from the mis­sion which helped to save 12 school­boys and their coach from a flooded cave.

Diver Josh Bratch­ley, cen­tre, one of the res­cue team, ar­rives back at Lon­don’s Heathrow Air­port.

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