Erik Brown is planning to return home to Langley to spend some quality time with his family. Photo courtesy Kirk Brown

Plenty of heroes in Thai cave rescue, says B.C. diver

Erik Brown reflects on team effort that brought 12 boys and their coach to safety

He’s been called a hometown hero, but Erik Brown says there are plenty of others who deserve that title.

The Langley diver was part of an international team that rescued 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach who were trapped inside the Tham Luang Cave in Thailand after it was flooded by monsoon rains.

It took 18 days to find and save the boys, who are all part of the Wild Boars soccer team. One Thai Navy SEAL died in the cave while prepping for their rescue.

READ MORE: After cave rescue, soccer boys pray for protection at Thai temple

It was an enormous team effort, Brown said over the phone from his home in Thailand. Every person involved played a crucial role, whether they were a diver or simply dropping off donations and supplies.

“There were full food courts outside, there were volunteers giving back, there were full military bases there, there were medical stations set up and a lot of people. There were police officers outside, checks — just a massive operation,” Brown told Black Press.

“There’s so many more heroes in the story. The number one is the kids — they tested their tolerance really well there. We had the unfortunate accident with the Thai Navy SEAL, who paid the ultimate price. And then you have the UK guys who spearheaded the diving side of things. I think that title can be reserved for many more people in the situation.”

The mission, dubbed by the Thai Navy SEALS as “Operation Bring Wild Boars home,” was extremely dangerous and physically exhausting for the rescuers.

The divers first had to hike for an hour and a half, and then spent up to 10 hours a day treading in cold water, Brown explained. They lugged heavy tanks through small cracks in the cave, and faced low visibility and strong currents.

It was a dive unlike anything Brown had done before, despite having over a decade of experience as both a diver and instructor — yet he knew it was something he had to be a part of.

READ MORE: Daring rescue saves all 12 boys, soccer coach from Thai cave

“Diving has given me a lot, and I’ve been in Thailand for two years now. It’s been the opportunity of a lifetime, so you have to give back a little bit,” he said.

“(We had) the expertise from some of the best cave divers in the world — I’ve never been part of something like that.

“I’ve done lots of cave diving, but obviously, even though you’re teaching or it might be a job, it’s still for fun.”

When the rescue was complete, Brown and the other divers were sent to the hospital to treat some minor scrapes and bruises. The kids were placed in quarantine and weren’t reunited with their families until yesterday (July 18).

They spent their first day with their families at a Buddhist temple where they prayed for protection from misfortunes.

Brown is already back at work at his diving school, Hydronauts Diving, in Koh Tao, Thailand, but hopes to take some extended time off soon. He has a few dive trips planned, and will travel back to North America to see his mom, Dorothy, brother, Kirk, and other family members.

READ MORE: ‘No surprise’ Langley rescue diver stepped in to help, says brother

“I would love to get back. Obviously, it was pretty hard on the family, and I would like to spend a little bit of time with (them) out on the farm in Langley, and get down to Colorado to see my godson,” he said.



miranda@langleytimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Hockey history in Surrey as Team India comes to play

Squad played its very first game in Canada on Tuesday against Surrey Falcons

Proposed coal project for Fraser Surrey Docks back in court

It could be months before the federal appeal court renders a decision

Minor injuries for firefighter struck outside South Surrey fire hall

Minor injuries for firefighter struck outside South Surrey fire hall

Surrey to hear news on Olympic softball qualifier bid next week

Decision, originally expected in September, was delayed by World Baseball Softball Confederation

Letters shed light on state of mind of mother accused of daughter’s murder

Trial of South Surrey’s Lisa Batstone begins in BC Supreme Court

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

Fear of constitutional crisis escalates in U.S.; Canadians can relate

Some say President Donald Trump is leading the U.S. towards a crisis

B.C.-based pot producer Tilray reports revenue surge, net loss

Company remains excited about ‘robust’ cannabis industry

Canada stands pat on Saudi arms sales, even after hearing Khashoggi tape

Khashoggi’s death at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul further strained Riyadh’s already difficult relationship with Ottawa

Feds pledge money for young scientists, but funding for in-house research slips

Canada’s spending on science is up almost 10 per cent since the Liberals took office, but spending on in-house research is actually down

Stink at B.C. school prompts complaints of headaches, nausea

Smell at Abbotsford school comes from unauthorized composting operation

Disabled boy has ‘forgiven’ bullies who walked on him in stream, mom says

A Cape Breton teen who has cerebral palsy was told to lie in a stream as other kids walked over him

Vancouver man must pay $22,000 after breaking strata rules

Peter Gordon took his fight over his rented condo to the civil resolution tribunal, but lost

B.C. cheese linked to 5 E. coli cases

People are asked to throw out or return ‘Qualicum Spice’ cheese

Most Read