Thai cave rescue: Who are the British divers who found the missing boys?

Thai cave rescue: Who are the British divers who found the missing boys?

Richard Stanton British Cave diver
Three British cave divers, Richard William Stanton (left), Robert Charles Harper (centre) and John Volanthen arrive at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai on Jun 27, 2018. (Photo: AFP)

Two cave divers who found 12 Thai boys and their football coach on Monday (Jul 2) were neither military personnel nor professional divers, but volunteers from Britain.

As light was first shone on the faces of the young boys after nine long days of being trapped in the flooded Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai, one of the questions the youngsters asked was: "Where you come from?"

"England, UK" one of the rescuers said.

The two British divers who found the boys are part of a three-man team from the British Cave Rescue Council (BCRC). They have been identified in media reports as John Volanthen, 47, and Rick Stanton, 56.

A team of Thai Navy Seals was with them when they found the lost boys.

Their voices were heard in a video of the first moments the boys were found, which was posted on the Thai Navy Seals Facebook page, said The Telegraph.

Mr Volanthen, an Internet engineer in Bristol, is one of the leading experts in cave rescue, the British paper reported. He took up diving as a boy scout and when not underwater, is an ultramarathoner.

Mr Volanthen told the Sunday Times in a 2013 interview that caving requires a cool head and that "panic and adrenaline are great in certain situations but not in cave-diving".

Mr Stanton, a firefighter in Coventry, has been diving since he was 18 and was awarded an MBE for his rescue work.

He told his local newspaper in 2012 that his biggest achievement was helping rescue six British soldiers trapped in caves in Mexico.

He and Mr Volanthen also helped in 2010 in an attempt to find Eric Establie, an experienced French potholer who became trapped underground in the Ardeche region of southern France. Establie's remains were found eight days after he went missing.

The pair were also part of a team that set a world record for the longest cave dive in the Pozo Azul cave system in Spain in 2011.

Both are volunteers with the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team.

Thai authorities had last week called the BCRC for help and three experienced cave divers were sent to help, the council said. Mr Volanthen and Mr Stanton were flown in, along with Mr Robert Charles Harper, the report said. 

In Thailand, the team have avoided the media, with Volanthen telling reporters when he arrived at the site: "We've got a job to do."

DIFFICULT RESCUE

"The British divers Rick and John were at the spearhead" of the forward search party, said Bill Whitehouse of BCRC, an informal grouping of rescue teams around Britain.

"They managed to dive the last section and get through into the chamber where the missing party were on a ledge above the water."

Mr Whitehouse, who has spoken briefly to the team, described the difficulties of the search.

"They were diving upstream in the system, so they were having to swim against the current or pull themselves along the walls," he told the BBC.

"I gather the actual diving section was about 1.5km, about half of which was completely flooded," he said, adding that the total dive was about three hours.

According to an earlier update by the council, the pair of divers were "path-finding" through flooded passages and laid guidelines along the way. 

Thai, Australian and US divers supporting them ferried in air tanks and established air supply dumps.

The rescue effort was led by Thai authorities and 1,000 Thai personnel, 30 members of the United States Pacific Command and Australian police officers. Specialists from Japan, China, Myanmar and Laos, were also flown in to help.

Rescuers are now bracing for a long and difficult evacuation for the 13 trapped on a mound of mud surrounded by water deep in the still-flooded cave.


READ MORE | Full coverage of the search and rescue operation:
https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/topic/Thailand-cave-rescue

Source: Agencies/hm

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