The man who led the expedition to free a young football team trapped in a cave in Thailand has downplayed the significance of the rescue mission that transfixed people around the world for 17 days.
In his only solo interview, Briton John Volanthen was asked by the BBC if he would admit that the rescue was “remarkable”, but conceded only that, “I can see it was a first”.
The ‘Wild Boars’ and their coach were missing for nine days – since June 23 – in the Luang Nang Non Cave in northern Thailand before they were discovered by Volanthen and fellow Briton, Rick Stanton.
The last of the boys was freed on July 10 and they are expected to be discharged from hospital on Thursday.
Volanthen told the BBC of the moment he found the boys, saying that a lot of media reports had suggested that it was through “luck” which was “absolutely not the case”.
Volanthen said due to the size of the young boys he was concerned “how well they’d hold up in the journey”.
“Alive in a cave and alive outside of a cave are different things,” he said.
The rescuer told of carrying the children out of the cave like a “shopping bag”.
“Some times you would hold it close to your chest if the passage was narrow and deep. If the passage was low and wide you’d hold it to the side,” he said.
Volanthen said the death of Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan, who died while replenishing oxygen canisters along the escape route, made the rescue “bitter sweet”.
“It is a shame with the rescue being so successful… that adds a bittersweet flavour. It was a tragedy.” – BBC