Some of the divers tasked with safely extracting members of a soccer team from a Thailand cave are opening up about the dramatic rescue.
All 13 members of the Wild Boars soccer team, including their coach, are recovering in the hospital. They were successfully pulled out of the flooded Tham Luang Nang Non cave earlier this week after they were trapped for more than two weeks.
The boys, ranging in age from 11 to 16, became trapped on June 23 after the cave system was flooded during a monsoon. What followed was a carefully planned operation involving Thai navy Seals and international divers.
One diver, Thai navy Seal Saman Kunan, died while bringing oxygen to the children.
The British divers behind the rescue are now back at home and speaking out about the effort.
Rick Stanton, who was one of the first British divers to approach the team in the cave on July 2, described the relief he felt as he learned the boys were all alive.
“As they were coming down the slope, we were counting them until we got to 13 … unbelievable,” he said during a press conference at Heathrow Airport.
Stanton, a retired firefighter, joined a group of British divers who left London on June 26 to join the rescue effort.
“This is completely uncharted, unprecedented territory so nothing like this has been done, so of course there were doubts,” Stanton, who helped map the cave, said. “But I knew that we had a good team with good support from the Thai authorities and national caving community and rescue organizations, so we had the best that we could do to make the plan work.”
Even with his years of experience in cave rescues, Stanton said this is not a rescue he would ever imagine taking part in.
“[It’s] one I would dread doing,” he said.
Two other British cave divers who assisted in the mission were John Volanthen and Jason Mallinson.
The duo were given certificates of appreciation from Thai Tourism Minister Weerasak Kowsurat this week.
The men were applauded for their hard work and Mallinson had some words for the boys.
“We are glad that we can get you out alive and be careful in the future,” he said.
The group is currently in the hospital and a video released from the Thai government shows the boys doing just fine.