Thai cave rescue: Rick Stanton says he is 'not a hero'

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The Australians who helped rescue of 12 boys trapped inside a Thai cave are on their way home, as a campaign builds to award Dr Richard Harris and his dive partner Craig Challen Australia's highest honour.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Thursday global members of the rescue team would be given a "Thailand Elite" card worth 500,000 baht ($15,000) with benefits including a 5-year visa in thanks.

"Diving conditions were extremely challenging", said cave diver Chris Jewell.

"When you see Australians who are modest turn up in these most hard situations around the world and they just do what they believe is the right thing", he said.

"The most important thing to have was a full face mask which had been applied inside with positive pressure to enable them to breathe and to be relaxed enough so not to feel any anxiety during the process", he said.


Many people in Thailand have credited the coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, or Ek as he is known, for keeping the boys safe during the ordeal.

"I knew that 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".

Their return came as parents of the 12 boys, all members of the Wild Boar soccer team, made it clear they had no blame for the boys' junior coach, Ekkapon "Ake" Chantawongse.

"He's got a very good bedside manner, he's got a very bouncy Australian accent, and they seemed to find that quite relaxing and reassuring", British diver John Volanthen said.

The cave rescue was a unsafe operation.


Initially isolated in hospital in Chiang Rai because of fears of infection, the boys have now been allowed to meet their families.

But Mr Volanthen dismissed the idea, adding: "We are not heroes".

"They are the toughest blokes and kids I have ever had the privilege to meet", he said in a conversation with the Prime Minister.

'Then, of course, when we departed, all we could think about was how we were going to get them out.

The 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach had wandered into the Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 23 after finishing soccer practice but became trapped after torrential rain.


Sadly just hours after making his way out of the cave, Harris received the heartbreaking news that his father had died. "And be careful in the future", Jason Mallison, a diver for the British Cave Rescue Council, said when asked by reporters in Thailand if there was anything he wanted to tell the rescued members of the Wild Boar soccer team.

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