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Calls to knight hero Thai cave rescuers

By Jonny Drury | Mid Wales | News | Published:

Two divers who formed part of the team that rescued 12 youngsters and their football coach trapped in a cave in Thailand have returned to the UK amid calls for them to be honoured for their bravery.

Richard Stanton, left, and John Volanthen at Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, in Thailand

John Volanthen and Rick Stanton are members of the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team, deployed last week to help with the rescue operation.

The boys were trapped for 17 days after monsoon rain pushed them further into a cave they were exploring.

After days of being trapped, the pair from the Mid Wales team found them huddled in darkness amid fears they could be forced to stay their for month.

Preparations began and divers began supplying them with food and oxygen, with one Thai navy seal diver tragically dying when his air tank ran out.

Mr Volnathen and Mr Stanton were involved in the operation throughout, and celebrated as the boys emerged from the tunnel earlier this week.

Before leaving Thailand they were presented with medals and were given free flights back to the UK.

Now numerous calls have been made for the pair, along with seven other British divers to be knighted.

North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson says they should be given the George Medal.

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But Mr Volanthen, an IT consultant from Bristol who is a volunteer cave diver, said they were simply doing a job, adding: "It’s not like that – if you could do the same for someone else’s child, you would. The result is the important thing. The kids came out, the coach is good, the Seals are good – job done. So we’re pleased with that."

Retired Coventry firefighter Rick Stanton, 56, said: "It seems to have lifted the whole country. It all went according to plan. The boys did well."

Heroism

Mr Paterson posted on social media: "They deserve the George Cross, the highest civilian award for bravery, for acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger."

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The group of boys and their coach had to take on the terrifying journey of diving underwater for hours to get out.

Many had never swam, and joined by two divers they made their way through the narrow passages and out of the cave.

At one point they had to go through a gap so small that diving gear had to be taken off to get through.

Divers have also said the boys were given the horse tranquilliser ketamine, to stop them from panicking during the journey.

The boys are now being treated in hospital and have been inundated with messages of support.

They were even invited to attend the FIFA World Cup Final on Sunday, but due to their condition won't be able to go.

Mr Volanthen's mother Jill was also full of praise for her son.

She added: "I would like to thank everybody for all their team work to get the lads out - it is absolutely lovely.’

"We are absolutely so proud, but my sympathy is with the wife and family of the diver who lost his life."

Jonny Drury

By Jonny Drury
@JonnyDrury_Star

Senior reporter covering Oswestry and Mid Wales.

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