On Saturday 23 June 2018 twelve boys (aged 11 - 16) finished football practice under the watchful eye of their 25-
year-old coach, Ekkapol Chantawong. The group then cycled to a popular tourist attraction: Tham Luang Nang Non cave. Long story short, the group ended up trapped in the cave.
On the morning of Tuesday 26 June 2018 the British Cave Rescue Council received a phone call from the Thai authorites asking for specialist help.
Less than 12 hours later Rick Stanton, John Volanthen and Rob Harper were on a flight heading for Thailand
The cave divers reported 'gnarly diving'.
Two days after the boys were found, Jason Mallinson and Chris Jewel flew out to Thailand. They were closely followed by specialist surface cave rescuers whose controlled the site for the divers.
Three younger Cave Diving Group members then flew out.
The rescue mission kicked off on Sunday 8 July and finished on Tuesday 10 July 2018. Although all the children and the coach were successfully rescued alive, a Thai Seal tragically died.
Part of the British team held a press conference at London Heathrow. John Volanthen gave an interview to the BBC and the Australian doctor, Dr Richard Harris issued a statement on social media.
We will no doubt hear more soon from the rescue team.
We didn't hear about the UK companies and people who worked very quietly behind the scenes on this rescue. They certainly deserve a mention in dispatches.
Peter Wilson at Maxshow opened his stock room and donated Miflex hoses, OmniSwivel fittings and quick disconnect Swage Locks.
These were collected by Gavin Newman and driven straight to Heathrow to make the overnight flight to Thailand.
Richard Major and Wraysbury Dive Centre became the "rescue post office".
Wraysbury received deliveries, donated every single A clamp adaptor they could lay their hands on, and provided very necessary subsistence to Gavin Newman.
Dave Blackham of Espirit Film & TV also opened their cupboards and Gavin Newman collected a lot of specialist equipment. Espirit specialise in filming underground and underwater. They also film in trees and up mountains and volcanoes.
Ryan Crawford of Suunto Diving UK donated a number of computers to a blind auction to raise funds for the British Cave Rescue Council.
To date £2,229 has been raised via these Suunto computers and its hoped the final figure will be about £4,000.
Gavin Newman - an award winning underwater cinematographer and cave diver - sourced, co-ordinated and collected equipment from various places in the UK and got it onto short notice outbound flights to Thailand.
Newman also delivered key members of the British rescue team to London Heathrow. Thirdly he worked with Neil Brock to problem solve for the Brits already out in Thailand.
Neil Brock of Bristol Channel Diving Services used his full face experience to assist with his personal Apollo 13 moment. "How to help make a full face mask fit a very small Thai face."
In addition Brock serviced and prepped Guardian and Aga Interspiro Divator MK II full face masks. In the end only the Aga masks were dispatched to Thailand. Neil Brock also sent his oxygen booster pump to Thailand.
It should be noted that all the above companies who donated equipment did so with the expectation that they would never see the gear again. No invoices were raised. No money changed hands. It was done to support the Brits to get the football team out alive.
Gavin Newman said mid-way into the rescue "the support has been really impressive. Everyone is really pulling together and helping us with offering us any equipment that we need. Thank you."
When the dust finally settled, Drew Richardson, CEO of PADI observed that this was diving’s 'Apollo 13'.
"Action and focus propelled by the unshakeable conviction that those boys would not die on diving’s watch. But, unlike Apollo 13, the rescuers had to go into “space” themselves, and the tragic loss of the Thai SEAL, Saman Kunan, highlights the difficulties, dangers and risks the rescuers faced and accepted. It was diving’s finest hour. And, it took all of you to make it happen."
The UK Royal Navy Clearance Divers Association has launched an appeal to raise funds for the family of Saman Gunan. To date just shy of £12,000 has been raised.
The British Cave Rescue Council co-ordinated the Brit aspect of the mission. This is a charity rescue organisation entirely funded by donations. If you feel that you wish to make a practical difference and support future cave rescues, you might wish to support the British Cave Rescue Council.
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