Hero Aussie diver details Thai rescue

By AAP Newswire

The decision to swim members of a Thai youth soccer team to safety from a flooded cave was made only after all other options were exhausted, Australian cave diver and retrieval expert Richard "Harry" Harris says.

The Adelaide anaesthetist played a critical role in the rescue operation because of his unique skills, including 30 years experience diving some of the world's deepest and most challenging caves.

As he flew back to Australia on Friday, he told how he and his Australian dive partner, retired Perth vet Craig Challen, were supported by divers from Thailand, the UK and Europe as the 12 members of the soccer team and their coach were freed.

"The pressure that was put on these guys was immense and they never dropped the ball for a second," Dr Harris said in a Facebook post detailing the operation.

He said by the time he and Dr Challen arrived at the Chang Rai site in northern Thailand, local and British divers had laid down robust ropes to ensure safe access to the stranded boys of the Wild Boars team.

He said those divers not only found the boys alive but conveyed the gravity of the situation to the rest of the world.

"Meanwhile on the ground, the Thais and international community sent in swarms of men and women to provide everything from catering, communications, media and of course the huge teams of workers filling the cave with tonnes and tonnes of equipment to try and lower the water and sustain the diving operations," Dr Harris wrote.

"I have never seen anything like it with man battling to control the natural forces of the monsoon waters.

"Local climbing and rope access workers rigged the dry cave section for that part of the rescue and scoured the bush for more entrances to the cave.

"Drilling teams attempted to get through nearly a km of rock to the boy's location.

"And all this time four brave Navy Seals sat with the Wild Boars knowing they were in as much danger as the kids."

Dr Harris said he wanted to provide details of the rescue to give credit to others involved.

"Craig and I have had a spotlight on our efforts and we want to make everyone realise that while we might have become the face of this rescue for some reason, everyone should know that the role we played was no more or less important than all the many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people I have mentioned," he said.

"The part we played has been made out to be a lot more noble than it actually was.

"We just consider ourselves lucky to have had some skills that we could contribute to the wonderful outcome."

Meanwhile thousands of people have joined the call for Dr Harris and Dr Challen to be presented with the Cross of Valour, Australia's highest civilian bravery award with a petition taking more than 33,000 signatures.