British diver: ‘Unbelievable’ finding Thai boys alive
A British diver who helped rescue schoolboys from a cave in Thailand says it was "unbelievable" to find the boys alive.
Rick Stanton, from Coventry, told reporters after arriving at Heathrow Airport in London: "As they were coming down the slope we were counting them so we got to 13. Unbelievable."
Flanked by other members of the dive rescue team, Mr Stanton was asked about his emotions when the boys were found and replied: "Initially, of course, excitement. Relief that they were still alive.
"We gave them a little bit of extra light, they still had light, they looked in good health, but, of course, when we departed all we could think of was how we were going to get them out, so it was relief tempered with uncertainty," he said.
Mr Stanton insisted they were not heroes.
"Are we heroes? No we're not."
He says the divers used a "very unique skill set" to "give something back to the community".
Asked if it was a rescue he would dream of doing, he replied: "No, it's one I'd dread doing."
The mission involved 13 foreign divers – around half of whom were British.
Saman Kunan, a Thai navy Seal, died during the rescue operation.
The 12 boys and their coach had gone missing while exploring the cave after football practice on 23 June.
But bursts of monsoon rain caused the water inside the cave to rise, leaving them trapped.
They were discovered 10 days later by two British divers, reported to be Mr Stanton and John Volanthen, who found them huddled on a small, dry shelf above the water.
Mr Stanton said the toughest part of the mission was bringing the boys back through the passage and admitted he was not certain they would succeed.
"This is completely uncharted, unprecedented territory. Nothing like this has ever been done," he said.
"Of course there were doubts but I knew we had a good team with good support from the Thai authorities and national caving community and rescue organisations, so I knew we had the best that we could do to make a plan work," he added.
Up to 100 people were inside the cave during the rescue and each boy was handled by dozens of rescue workers through nine chambers as they made their way out.
Mr Stanton admitted that made the task more difficult.
"There was a lot of chaos, but we were so task-orientated and focused and carried on with the job in hand and carried it out," he said.
Returning with Mr Stanton were Chris Jewell, Mike Clayton, Gary Mitchell, Connor Roe, Jim Warny and Josh Bratchley.
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Mr Volanthen arrived in the UK on Thursday.
Mr Jewell, who admitted it was very hard to judge how close it came to being a very different outcome, said: "The diving conditions were extremely challenging, there was poor visibility and responsibility for another human being's life."