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

Team BC defeats its hosts at junior curling nationals Sunday

Tyler Tardi and his team have played and won three games in the Canadian championships, so far.

UPDATE: Olympic softball qualifier to be held in Surrey

Tournament is to be held Aug. 25 to Sept. 1

Surrey resident to speak about erasing Alzheimer’s disease stigma

A goal of Dona McMorland is to erase stigma attached to the disease

Vehicle rollover in Surrey

Surrey Fire Service responded to the collision on the 19500-block of 60 Avenue

VIDEO: Three-peat for Semiahmoo at basketball’s Surrey RCMP Classic

South Surrey-based squad tops Lord Tweedsmuir in final at Enver Creek gym

REPLAY: B.C’s best videos this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Patriots make 3rd straight Super Bowl, beat Chiefs 37-31 in OT

New England will meet L.A. Rams in NFL title game

Pettersson returns to lead Canucks to 3-2 win over Red Wings

Vancouver’s super rookie has 2 points in first game back after knee injury

Crash closes Coquihalla southbound lane south of Merritt

Accident occurred approximately 26 kilometres south of Merritt

Skaters stranded in Saint John, NB, amid storm on last day of championships

More than half of the flights out of the city’s airport were cancelled due to the weather

Call for tighter bail rules after Saudi sex-crime suspect vanishes

Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi was facing charges related to alleged sexual assault, criminal harassment, assault and forcible confinement of a woman

12 poisoned eagles found on Vancouver Island

Improper disposal of euthanized animal suspected

B.C. resident creates global sport training program

The 20 hour course teaches the science and application of interval training at the university level

B.C. VIEWS: Fact-checking the NDP’s speculation tax on empty homes

Negative-option billing is still legal for governments

Most Read