Aussie diver’s personal tragedy hours after leaving cave

Dr Richard Harris has been labelled 'the best' for his work in rescuing the trapped boys. Picture: AAP

The father of Aussie doctor and diver Richard Harris has died overnight, just a short time after his son rescued the final team members in a Thailand cave. 

It is understood the doctor nicknamed “Harry” has been informed of the tragic news.

In a statement his colleague, MedSTAR Director of Clinical Services Dr Andrew Pearce said it was “with great sadness Harry’s dad passed away last night”.

“All the team at SA Ambulance Service is incredibly proud of Dr Harris,” the statement read.

“It has been a tumultuous week with highs and lows. We are delighted that Harry and the boys are safe and that he was able to play such a remarkable role in the Australian response.

“Harry is a quiet and kind man who did not think twice about offering his support on this mission.

“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.”

“I have spoken with Harry. This is clearly a time of grief for the Harris family, magnified by the physical and emotional demands of being part of this week’s highly complex and ultimately successful rescue operation.

“He will be coming home soon and taking some well-earned time off to be with his family. He has asked that the family’s privacy is respected at this time.”

Dr Harris is believed to have been the last person to come out of the cave, and his incredible efforts drew special praise from the leader of the rescue mission, acting Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osotanakorn.

“(The Australians) have been a big help, especially the doctor,” Osotanakorn told 9NEWS reporter Ben Avery.

“Very good. The best – not good – the very best.”

More than 100 rescue workers were forced to flee the Tham Luang cave just after 10pm on Tuesday night, moments after the final Thai Navy Seal who had stayed with the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach was free – after the pumps holding back floodwaters failed.

We now know the identity of the mystery Australian dive buddy of the hero Australian doctor, Richard Harris, who gave final medical approval before each boy attempted to exit the cave with Thai Navy seals and the all-star international dive team.

The man is Craig Challen, from Perth, a close friend who Harris asked to join him on the mission in Thailand.

Doctor Richard Harris, right, with his dive partner Craig Challen.

It can be revealed that both men – not just Harris – swam all the way to the boys on each of the three rescue mission days and did not leave the cave until after the boys had been evacuated to safety.– AAP. 

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