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Thailand cave rescue: Theresa May meets British 'hero' divers who helped rescue trapped boys

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 24/07/2018 Fiona Simpson

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Video: Theresa May hails British diving 'heroes' who helped rescue football team from Thailand cave (Provided by Press Association)

Theresa May has met with British divers who helped save 12 schoolboys and their football coach from a flooded cave in Thailand, hailing them all “heroes”.

The cave divers visited Number 10 for a reception with the Prime Minister Tuesday afternoon.

John Volanthen, from Bristol, was one of the first divers to reach the stranded group in the Luang Nang Non Cave and was among those who stood for a photograph on Downing Street with the PM and Thai ambassador Pisanu Suvanajata.

Mrs May thanked the divers, adding: "They did extremely well. We can be very proud of them. They did a fantastic job. They're great heroes.

a group of people posing for a photo in front of a building: Thaidivers2207a.jpg © Provided by Independent Print Limited Thaidivers2207a.jpg "John said they're not heroes, but I think every one of them is a hero."

The divers launched a mission to rescue the boys and their 25-year-old coach, which concluded 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 diving experience.

Related video: Candles and chanting: Thai cave boys in ceremony to become Buddhist novices (Provided by Reuters)

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Others at Downing Street were divers Chris Jewell and Connor Roe, both from Somerset, Josh Bratchley, from Devon, and Robert Harper, also believed to be from Somerset.

British expat Vern Unsworth, who was living in Thailand and had experience of the caves where the boys became stuck, was also part of the rescue operation and was part of the group meeting the PM.

Billionaire Elon Musk apologised to Mr Unsworth after calling him "pedo guy".

The Twitter comment came amid a spat between Mr Musk and Mr Unsworth, who had claimed the Tesla founder's offers to help save the children were a "PR stunt".

Mr Unsworth had said he was considering legal action, while some investors in Mr Musk's company had demanded an apology.

a group of people standing around a table with a cake: thailandcaverescue2407e.jpg © Provided by Independent Print Limited thailandcaverescue2407e.jpg Leaving Downing Street, Mr Volanthen, 47, said: "We're all very honoured. We're obviously happy to acknowledge British contribution to an international effort."

Asked about the global media attention surrounding the rescue when it was ongoing, he said: "We ignored it and focused on what needed doing."

Mr Volanthen said they were "pleasantly surprised" that it went so well, adding: "It was never a foregone conclusion that it would go so well.

"We were very happy. A lot of people put in a lot of effort and the result was fantastic."

Mr Volanthen said Mrs May was "very complimentary".

Reflecting on the moment he knew all the boys were safe, he said: "Safe being out of the cave, we were all very relieved.

a group of people posing for a photo: thailandcaverescueboys1807.jpg © Provided by Independent Print Limited thailandcaverescueboys1807.jpg "That was the main emotion because there was a lot that could have gone wrong."

Mr Volanthen, along with diver Rick Stanton, discovered that the boys were still alive nine days after they went missing deep within the labyrinth.

Recalling that moment, he said: "We were very pleased but I think we were both aware that there's a very big difference between being alive inside the cave and being alive outside the cave."

He added: "We weren't sure what we would find so we were very pleased that they were alive and well."

Slideshow: Rescued Thai soccer team makes public appearance (Provided by Microsoft ICE)


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