Calls for British divers who helped rescue trapped Thai boys to be honoured

Calls for British divers who helped rescue trapped Thai boys to be honoured

Divers John Volanthen (left) and Rick Stanton (right). Image: Getty

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

There are calls for the British divers who helped rescue 12 schoolboys and their football coach from a flooded Thai cave to be honoured.

Rick Stanton and John Volanthen were the first divers to reach the group nine days after they went missing in the underground network in northern Thailand.

The pair, along with a number of other British elite divers had flown to the region to assist at the request of Thai authorities.

On Tuesday the last of the Wild Boars football team were brought safely to the surface and taken to hospital.

The British rescuers were said to be "all alright" and resting after the gruelling operation.

Rewarded for bravery

Writing on Twitter, former Conservative Party treasurer Lord Ashcroft suggested Mr Stanton and Mr Volanthen could be awarded the George Cross or George Medal for their bravery.

The George Cross is the highest civilian honour in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.

Others called for the pair to be given knighthoods for their "heroic efforts".

Businesswoman Tracey Follows tweeted: "Knighthoods for the British divers involved please. True bravery and superhero status."

Former England captain Michael Vaughan wrote on Twitter: "Proud of the England Football team .. But that's just sport .. More proud of the 7 British divers that have helped save all those boys lives in Thailand.."

Previous rescues

The elite divers joined the search after the group disappeared in the Luang Nang Non Cave, Chiang Rai province, on June 23.

Mr Stanton, a fireman from Coventry, aged in his 50s, was made an MBE at the end of 2012.

He previously said his greatest achievement was helping rescue trapped British soldiers from a cave in Mexico in 2004.

Mr Volanthen, an IT consultant in his 40s and based in Bristol, was also part of a British team with Mr Stanton which reportedly set a world record for a deep underwater cave dive in Spain in 2010.

British caves a good training ground

Martyn Farr, a member of the Cave Diving Group of Great Britain and friend of Mr Stanton and Mr Volanthen, told The Times that practising in British caves would have prepared the rescuers for the mission.

“They are known as a specialist team,” he said. “Their particular skill is diving in waters that are either confined or with very poor visibility. Our British caves are cold and wet, and it rains a lot. In the Yorkshire Dales and South Wales, cave waters are murky because of peat staining coming off the moors. The water can look like a pint of Guinness.”

British divers, Mr Farr added, also knew how to spot signs of flooding or an impending rise in water levels.

“The cavers are aware of the telltale signs of flooding. You can look at a cave and see the level the water will rise to in flood conditions. In British caves you may find pieces of grass or even foam marks high on the walls; if those things are visible then you know how high the water can get.”

Mr Volanthen's mother, Jill, told the Daily Telegraph: "We are absolutely so proud, but my sympathy is with the wife and family of the diver who lost his life.

"I would like to thank everybody for all their team work to get the lads out, it is absolutely lovely."