An Australian doctor who helped in the rescue mission of a football team and their coach stuck in a cave has been praised for the huge decision he made.
Thankfully, the 12 young boys and their football coach were all saved from a flooded cave in Thailand, but the rescue team’s strategy changed just before the first four boys were retrieved.
Dr. Richard Harris, an Australian doctor, was called in to help with the rescue attempt by British officials, and abandoned his cave-diving trip in Western Australia to go and help.
The brave doctor entered the caves on Sunday, (July 8) reaching the boys through flooded and dark tunnels, in order to examine them.
He stayed with the boys in the cave for three days.
After he’d inspected the boys, Harris made the decision to advise other members of the rescue mission to take the weakest of the boys out first – changing the initial plan to bring out the strongest.
Michael Eaton, one of Harris’ friends, spoke to ABC about the man’s experience in cave diving.
He’s just got so much experience of diving in so many different places around the world, I know for a fact he has dived in China on several occasions, once at the request of the Chinese government in fact, and it’s the same sort of geology across South East Asia, it will be sort of limestone cave networks.
I have been on many holidays with Harry — every trip with Harry is an adventure and when we go on a Harris holiday we call it a ‘Harris Adventure Tour’.
He is of course the main man on the Harris Adventure Tour and this is one sort of adventure.
People praised the doctor for his assistance in the mission and his decision to bring the weakest of the boys out first.
One person wrote:
#RichardHarris, an Australian doctor that was called in to bring out the weakest boys first in the #ThailandCaveRescue reversed this strategy by saying that they may not survive if they were left behind. After assessing their health. He has 30 years diving experience. Expert !
#RichardHarris, an Australian doctor that was called in to bring out the weakest boys first in the #ThailandCaveRescue reversed this strategy by saying that they may not survive if they were left behind. After assessing their health. He has 30 years diving experience. Expert ! pic.twitter.com/LlXGq7wQ05
— ? Alicia ? (@ALICIAH23) July 10, 2018
News reports saying the strongest boys being brought out first meaning the final 6 are going to be particularly difficult and challenging for divers, Aus doctors saying the weakest coming out first as conditions are best right now – 6 to go #ThaiCaveRescue #ThaiCave pic.twitter.com/yPmSbyv9wp
— Marky G ? #ColliderBNE #Fashion360 (@Mafesto) July 8, 2018
Adelaide doctor Richard Harris stopped his holiday to help those Thai boys. If ever a bloke deserved to be Australian of the Year it’s this man. He’s what embodies the true spirit of this country
— Peter Gleeson (@PeterGleeson63) July 10, 2018
Another of Harris’ colleagues, Dr. Griggs, explained why Harris specifically had been chosen for the mission.
He has done many things with the cave diving over many years and he is known to a very small group of people who have that very high level of expertise.
The combination of his medical knowledge and his cave diving skills was clearly [why] the British guys requested that he come as well.
The rescue mission of the boys took place over three days, with eight boys being rescued across Sunday and Monday and the final four boys and their football coach escaping the cave on Tuesday (July 10).
Lots of people were involved in the rescue mission, with one incredible diver sadly losing his life in his bid to save the boys.
All members of the group were rescued successfully from the caves, and while two boys had minor lung infections, they were mostly completely healthy.
Heartbreakingly, Harris’ father died shortly after the boys were rescued, while Harris was still in Thailand assisting in the operation.
The news was confirmed in a statement from Harris’ boss Andrew Peace, which read:
It is with great sadness that I confirm that Harry’s dad passed away last night a short time after the successful rescue operation in Thailand.
Harry will be coming home soon and taking some well-earned time off to be with his family.
Those involved in the rescue mission did an incredible job.
Our thoughts are with the Harris family, as well as the family and friends of Saman Gunan.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.