2 Brits honoured for heroic efforts in Thai cave rescue
The University of Bristol has awarded 2 British cave divers with honourary degrees after recognising their heroic efforts in rescuing 12 boys and a man from a flooded cave in Thailand.
Linda Wilson, Vice-President of the University of Bristol’s Spelaeological Society, nominated John Volanthen, from Bristol, and Rick Stanton, from Coventry, for their honorary degrees.
Wilson hailed the 2 British men and the other rescue divers for performing an impossible task in rescuing 12 children and their football coach from the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai Province in northern Thailand.
“Fortunately, by a combination of extraordinary courage and meticulous planning, they overcame all the odds and succeeded in one of the most extraordinary rescues that has ever been attempted, ultimately bringing out all 12 boys and their coach alive despite the most hazardous conditions imaginable.
“No one could better exemplify the values this University prizes – resilience, courage and outstanding skills – than Rick and John, who were to save the lives of so many others, while risking their own lives, daily, for the 15 days of this enormous rescue effort that held the world’s attention.”
The operation has been described as one of the greatest rescues of all time.
The Thai Government appealed to the men after heavy rain marooned 12 members of a junior football team and their coach from a cave complex in the north of the country.
The pair navigated 1.5 miles of constricted underwater passageways in near-zero visibility, against a fast-flowing, debris-strewn current, in a rescue that involved about 5,000 people
Against all the odds, 9 days after the rescue began, the 12 stranded boys, aged between 11-16, and their 25 year old coach were found on July 2, 2018. But that’s not half of it. The stranded team had little oxygen in their small air pocket, and with more monsoon rains predicted, time was running out.
Volanthen, who was 47 at the time, said he was confident of his own safety but confessed he was unsure he could save the boys and their coach.
“Having operated in difficult conditions, I was reasonably confident in being able to manage my own safety. For the boys, it was extremely dangerous. Trying to get them out was something that hadn’t been done before.”
With the help of an anaesthesiologist, each of the boys and their coach was injected with anaesthetic ketamine, the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and atropine, which slows the heart rate and reduces salivation. The unconscious boys were then dragged out of the submerged cave by the 2 Brits and a team of cave divers.
Stanton, who was 57 at the time, said the rescue was unprecedented and cannot be compared to anything else.
“It was a protracted two-and-a-half weeks and you had to think outside the box. We were literally writing the procedures, there was no manual — this had never been done before.”
The men also received George Medals, a non-military award for gallantry. Volanthen is an IT consultant, who remains a scout leader in his hometown of Long Ashton, just outside Bristol. Stanton was a firefighter for West Midlands Fire Service for 25 years.
The pair celebrated their honours after the graduation ceremony by diving together near Bristol.
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