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Australian doctor, forerunner in Thai cave rescue, affected by family tragedy
13 July 2018, 03:19 | Darnell Patrick
Richard Harris Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
The former governor of Chiang Rai province, Narongsak Osatanakorn, the local official in charge of the rescue operation, told ABC News some of the boys were too weak to really walk.
On Monday, July 2, nine days after becoming trapped, a group of divers found the boys 600 yards away from Pattaya Beach, an elevated rock mound within the cave system that is oftentimes used by those inside the cave when flooding occurs.
In places, they were put into harnesses and high-lined across rocky caverns, said a leader of the US contingent involved in the operation, calling it a "once in a lifetime rescue".
Thai officials have been generous with their praise of foreign volunteers who were essential in the complicated search and rescue operation, including Mr Volanthen and Mr Stanton who were the first to discover the boys.
John Volanthen and Rick Stanton are members of the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team, deployed last week to help with the rescue operation. Meanwhile, the Tham Luang cave complex will remain closed to the public for at least six months. "Initially, we weren't certain they were all alive - as they were coming down I was counting them until I got to 13", he said after his arrival at London's Heathrow airport.
'We gave them a little bit of extra light, they still had light, they looked in good health. They got far enough inside that rising floodwaters, not unusual at the cave this time of year, blocked their exit.
'So there was relief, tempered with uncertainty'.
But the mission, which leaned on the expertise of elite foreign divers and Thai Navy SEALs, almost turned into a calamity.
"The section of cave we were in was very rocky and unstable".
"This is completely uncharted, unprecedented territory". So, of course there were doubts. I think it was the result of an worldwide team of military and civilian divers working alongside the Thai Navy. It required an worldwide effort to make sure that they came out alive.
'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'.
"I believe it will become another highlight in Thailand", he said.
Returning with Mr Stanton were Chris Jewell, Mike Clayton, Gary Mitchell, Connor Roe, Jim Warny and Josh Bratchley.
The new video from the navy does not include footage of the divers in the water with the boys, but it does show a team of people using pulleys, string and rubber tubes to haul a green, kayak-shaped stretcher out of a tight crevice.
'The diving conditions were extremely challenging, there was poor visibility and responsibility for another human being's life.
"And we're here witnessing the events, gathering some contacts and everything, to really tell a story about an worldwide effort, the entire world coming together to save (12) kids trapped in this Thai cave".
The measure "brought us additional time to get this outcome", Jewell said.
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