Chiang Rai Brit expat input was crucial to cave rescue success

Published:  12 Jul at 6 PM
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Although he was hardly mentioned in the worldwide coverage of the dramatic rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from the flooded Chiang Rai cave, British expat caver Vernon Unsworth played a crucial part in its eventual success.

The British expatriate lives in Chiang Rai, close by the Tham Luang Nang Non cave where the junior football team and its coach were trapped by a flash flood which forced them to venture deeper into the cave system to escape the rising water. Originally from St Albans in Hertfordshire, Vernon is an highly experienced caver with unique knowledge of the cave itself.

He heard about the missing group the day after the news broke, and immediately went to the site to see if he could help. At first, the Thai authorities weren’t interested as they seemed to not trust him, and the governor was reluctant to put a foreigner in danger. When the Thai Navy Seals failed to find the team due to the conditions inside the cave network, Vernon told the authorities about the two British divers, adding they were friends of his. He convinced the Thai rescue team international help was badly needed, also using his own knowledge of the cave to estimate where the boys and their coach were trapped.

Once the two expert British divers arrived, they discussed Vernon’s theory and agreed with his hypothesis that the team and the coach would be somewhere in the ‘Pattaya Beach’ section of the cave complex. By a miracle, the monsoon rains held off and the 13 were found by the two British experts just beyond the main ’Pattaya Beach’ area, just as Vern had suggested. The rest is history, the world responded, the boys and their coach are safe and recovering and a huge debt is owed to all who risked their lives to make it happen. All that’s needed now are adequate safety measures at the cave to ensure nothing like this ever occurs again.
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