British diver in Thailand cave rescue insists he is not a hero

A British diver who helped in the Thailand cave rescue has insisted he is not a hero.

Rick Stanton, 56, was one of the two men who first found 12 young footballers and their coach alive nine days after they became trapped in the flooded cave system.

As he and several other UK divers involved in the operation returned home yesterday, the retired firefighter said: “Are we heroes? No.

“We were just using a very unique skill set, which we normally use for our own interests and sometimes we are able to use that and give something back to the community.”

Describing their relief at finding the youngsters alive, he said: “We were counting them until we got to 13… unbelievable. We gave them a bit of extra light, they still had light, they looked in good health. Then when we departed, all we could think about was how we would get them out.”

Speaking of the daring three-day rescue operation in which the boys were led out under water through narrow flooded tunnels, he said: “This was completely unprecedented, nothing like this has been done. So of course there were doubts.

“We had a good team, with good support from the Thai authorities, the caving community and rescue organisations, so we had the best we could do to make a plan work.”

The last of the 12 boys aged 11 to 16 and their 25-year-old coach were brought out alive on Tuesday, 17 days after going into the caves on June 23.

Tragically the operation claimed the life of Thai navy diver Saman Kunan, who died while replenishing oxygen canisters inside the caves.

Fellow rescue divers Chris Jewell and Connor Roe, both from Somerset; Josh Bratchley, from Devon; Mike Clayton, from Yorkshire; Gary Mitchell, from Wales and Jim Warny from Co Clare, Ireland also flew back today.

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Mr Jewell said: “The diving conditions were extremely challenging, there was poor visibility and responsibility for another human being’s life. It was a successful outcome and we played a part in an international effort.”

Arriving home in Ireland yesterday Jim Warny said the boys’ rescue was an “amazing miracle”.

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