The two Australian divers –Dr Craig Challen and Dr Richard Harris — involved in the risky Thailand cave rescue were given diplomatic immunity before the mission, in case something went awry during the rescue operation. The diplomatic immunity came after negotiations between Australian and Thai Government officials, an official source confirmed to ABC News.
Retired Perth vet Craig Challen and his fellow expert cave diver, anaesthetist Dr Richard “Harry” Harris, played a key role in the rescue operation of team ‘Wild Boar’. British diver Jason Mallinson said without Dr Harris, the mission would have failed.
When I first arrived in Thailand I thought the mission would be a recovery rather than a rescue, Dr Challen told Perth’s Sunday Times, adding, he didn’t think that the team would survive underground for months.
The three-day long rescue mission was practised on the ground before being executed in the caves. The soccer team practised inside the caves.
US Dive Operations Commander Derek Anderson said his team and the international dive experts began rehearsing in earnest the day before the rescue operation. They gathered some local children and headed to a swimming pool at a nearby school.
On the other hand, inside the flooded cave, they were also practising with the Wild Boars team and their coach, Mallinson said.
Dr Challen said, “It wasn’t dangerous for us but I can’t emphasise enough how dangerous it was for the kids.” The kids had to be sedated before the extraction so that they do not panic, ” they didn’t know what was going on,” he told Perth’s Sunday Times.
Mallinson said there were two things which could have killed them kids during the mission; if the full face mask dislodged and water got inside or if their air ran out. “…There was nothing we could do about it underwater. We didn’t have a backup device for them.”
Getting the 13 alive and out of the cave was unexpected. Derek Anderson said the realisation at the end of the third day that the operation had been a success was extraordinary.
The team is recovering in a hospital in Chiang Rai.
With inputs from ABC News and Perth’s Sunday Times