The hero British diver who rescued 12 Thai boys and their football coach from a flooded cave is dating a local Thai nurse.
Rick Stanton was the first person to reach the missing boys stranded in the flooded Tham Luang cave – and led the ‘mission impossible’ to free them.
Now MailOnline has revealed how fearless Mr Stanton, 57, who was awarded an MBE for his brave cave rescues, is dating a beautiful nurse from Thailand.
He has been dating Siripon Bugnngern, known as Amp, after meeting her just a few months ago while she was on holiday in England.
Amp is from Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, close to where the Wild Boar football team went missing on their ill-fated trip into the caves.
She volunteered to work as a translator for the British diver and the rest of the rescue team when he was called in to find and rescue the stranded boys.
‘Although it’s early days and they haven’t been together for long, Rick is absolutely besotted with Amp,’ said a source.
‘She is from Chiang Rai so when Rick was asked to come and help rescue the missing boys Amp was right by his side.
‘She has been helping Rick and the other divers throughout the rescue operation. Amp is part of the team, helping translate between the British and Thai rescuers.
‘They are very close. I wouldn’t be surprised if they get married.’
Despite an age gap of more than 20 years, Rick and Amp share a passion for out-door pursuits. The couple are believed to have met several months ago.
Mr Stanton led the rescue attempt that captivated the world along with second British diver, John Volanthen.
Mr Volanthen, 47, from Bristol, was part of the team that dived a recordbreaking 5.5 miles into the unexplored Pozo Azul cave system in Spain in 2010.
Mr Stanton, who was awarded an MBE, has a reputation of being ‘the man to call’ for certain cave rescues.
The firefighter from Coventry helped to rescue 13 British cavers in Mexico in 2004.
He is a fanatical potholer and cave diver, while his new girlfriend loves canoeing and rock climbing and travelling.
The British diver had been on holiday to the Chiang Rai area seeing Amp just weeks before the disaster in which the dozen young players went missing in the flooded cave.
Dramatic footage of the rescue attempt showed Mr Stanton discovered the boys stuck on a ledge in the cave where they had been trapped without food or daylight for nine days.
On the video, Mr Stanton could be heard saying, ‘How many of you? 13? Brilliant.’
When asked by the group if they will be leaving the cave, the diver said: ‘No, not today, not today. There’s two of us. You’ll have to dive.’
However, Rick and Amp did not meet in Thailand, they met while she was on holiday in the UK from Australia, where she has been working as a nurse in a care home.
A friend revealed: ‘Amp’s home town is Chiang Rai, but she met Rick while she was on holiday from her nursing job in Australia.
‘She came back to Chiang Rai just a few days before Rick was called to help in the rescue operation by chance.
‘She took part in the rescue mission and stayed with the team of divers during the operation.’
Amp’s skill and bravery in taking part in the rescue mission has also been praised.
Commenting on the picture of her with the rescue team inside the cave posted on Facebook, her friend Chadaporn Chamyam said: ‘Permission to admire. Amp never told anyone where she was. She is such a good person and a role model.’
Mr Stanton previously lost out in love because of his obsession with caving.
His former partner of 25 years Angie Timms told how the young couple were initially hooked on the ‘thrill’ of caving.
But the pair grew apart and split up as he became more obsessed with going underground.
Angie, from Coventry, told MailOnline: ‘Our paths and interests changed. He was into cave diving and doing it more and more and his lifestyle was getting too dangerous and I was worried about him.’