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‘Beyond our imagination’: Cave rescue doctor and dive partner say thanks

Dr Richard Harris and his dive partner Craig Challen have issued a statement thanking people for their support and words of encouragement after the successful cave dive rescue of 12 trapped boys and their football coach.

Key points:

  • Dr Richard Harris and diving partner Craig Challen have thanked people for their support
  • Dr Harris gave the medical all-clear for Thai cave evacuations
  • They both wish the soccer team a "speedy recovery"

The Adelaide doctor was the last person out of the cave following the daring mission.

He was tasked with giving the medical all-clear for each evacuation, and decided what order the boys would leave the cave in.

"We would like to thank everyone for the messages of support we have received following the successful extraction of the team and Royal Thai Navy Seals from the cave," the statement issued by the SA Ambulance Service reads.

"The favourable outcome that has been achieved is almost beyond our imagination when we first became involved in this operation.

"We are humbled to have been able to provide our expertise and experience to assist in this international operation led by the Thai government."

Yesterday it emerged Dr Harris had been told his father died shortly after the cave rescue.

He and Craig Challen were among 20 Australians involved in the Thai-led rescue effort.

The Australian team also included six Australian Federal Police divers, a Navy clearance diver and members of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Crisis Rescue Team.

Thanks to team from diving partners

Dr Harris and Mr Challen also thanked the football team for "placing their trust" in them to get out safely.

Two men in dark short sleeved shirts give a thumbs-up signal in a dimly lit room

"Our thanks and greatest admiration go [to] the British lead divers, and support divers along the route in and out of the cave system from the EU, US, China and Australia, as well as the vast number of participants from military and civilian organisations in various support roles," the statement continued.

"Additionally, we were only a small part of an Australian contingent comprising personnel from DFAT, AFP, and ADF who performed valuable roles.

"We particularly would like to thank the players and their coach for placing their trust in us. We wish them a speedy recovery.

"Thank you."

Video has since emerged from inside the cave, revealing the perilous passageways the rescue workers had to traverse to free the 12 trapped boys and their football coach.

All boys are now being monitored in hospital, and further video released overnight showed them smiling and in good spirits.

Dr Harris was meant to be on holiday but instead found himself putting his own life at risk to venture into the Chiang Rai cave to medically assess the 12 boys and their coach trapped inside.

He responded to the call for help from Thai authorities after being named by the British diving team leading the mission as the best person for the job, with his medical skills and 30 years' diving experience.

Black and white photo of a man in diving gear.

Yesterday his boss, MedSTAR clinical director Andrew Pearce, said all of the team at the SA Ambulance Service were "incredibly proud" of Dr Harris.

"It has been a tumultuous week with highs and lows," Dr Pearce said.

"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."

Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop also noted his efforts.

"He was an integral part of the rescue attempt," she told the ABC.

"He is internationally renowned for his expertise in cave rescues."

Ms Bishop said all the Australians involved would be in line for formal recognition of their actions.

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