SINGAPORE: A British cave diver who helped rescue 12 boys from a Thai cave said on Monday (Jul 16) he may take legal action against Elon Musk after the entrepreneur called him a paedophile.
In a series of tweets on Sunday that has since been taken down, the Tesla CEO attacked British caver Vernon Unsworth and called him a "pedo".
This came after Unsworth criticised a miniature submarine which Musk had proposed to help rescue the schoolboys and their coach from the Tham Luang cave complex, calling it a "PR stunt".
Unsworth, who provided mapping knowledge of the cave to rescuers, said Musk's prototype would have had "absolutely no chance of working".
In his tweets Musk refuted Unsworth's claim that his submarine concept was unworkable, saying that "we will make (a video) of the mini-sub/pod going all the way to Cave 5 no problemo".
"Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it," concluded Musk.
"Bet ya a signed dollar it's true," he wrote in another tweet that has also been deleted.
Musk had gone to Thailand during rescue operations with his mini-submarine, and left it at the Tham Luang cave complex in case the rescue team needed it.
"Never saw this British expat guy who lives in Thailand (sus) at any point when we were in the caves," Musk wrote in another tweet.
"Only people in sight were the Thai navy/army guys, who were great. Thai navy seals escorted us in - total opposite of wanting us to leave."
Unsworth, who lives part of the year in Thailand, took part in the gargantuan 18-day effort to retrieve the 12 boys and their coach, a mission that ended on Jul 10 when the last five members were extracted.
Musk later deleted the tweets and did not immediately respond to a request for comment through Tesla.
Unsworth told AFP on Monday he had not reviewed the tweets in full and had only heard about them.
Asked if he would take legal action against Musk over the allegation, Unsworth said: "If it's what I think it is yes."
The caver told AFP he would make a decision when he flies back to the UK this week, but said the episode with Musk "ain't finished".
"He's just a PR stunt merchant - that's all he is," Unsworth added.
Musk's tweets prompted condemnation from those who took part in the mission to save the boys.
Claus Rasmussen, a Danish national and instructor at Blue Label diving in Phuket, called the allegations "inappropriate" and praised Unsworth's role in the rescue.
"He was the guy who effectively mapped most of that cave," he told AFP.
"He was one of the driving forces in getting everything done and clarifying for us divers what was going on."
Netizens took to social media to criticise Musk's remarks.
"You are literally such a douchebag to go after that cave diver like that," commented Instagram user alexapersian on one of Musk's Instagram posts. "Calling someone a pedo is very dangerous and you actually could be sued."
"The thing is for once Elon you aren’t the hero and the attention wasn’t on you which you obviously can’t stand."
"Fool. Attacking rescuers in Thailand whilst trying to gain publicity for yourself," wrote Instagram user relumeconsulting. "Despicable behaviour."
Earlier, he had also made dismissive remarks about the Thai chief of rescue operations Narongsak Osottanakorn after Narongsak said Musk's mini-submarine did not fit with the rescue mission.
READ MORE | Full coverage of the search and rescue operation: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/topic/Thailand-cave-rescue