9 Jul 2018

The divers leading the Thai cave rescue

7:18 pm on 9 July 2018

Who are the British expert cave divers who are guiding the trapped football team and their coach out of the flooded Thailand cave?

Two British divers John Volanthen (L) and Richard William Stanton (R) are seen with Thai rescue personnel at the Tham Luang cave area on July 3, 2018 after finding the children and football coach alive in the cave.

Two British divers John Volanthen (L) and Richard William Stanton (R) are seen with Thai rescue personnel at the Tham Luang cave area on July 3, 2018 after finding the children and football coach alive in the cave. Photo: AFP

The rescue mission to get 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach from the cave where they've been trapped for over two weeks, is now on pause after rescuers brought out four boys.

Rescuers are now preparing for the next stage of the operation, and waiting for oxygen levels in the cave to rise.

The team includes Richard Stanton and John Volanthen, the pair who found the boys last Monday almost 10 days after they went missing.

The path out is dangerous, with twists and turns and narrow passages. But Mr Stanton and Mr Volanthen have a lot of experience.

Cool, calm, and collected

Mr Stanton, 57, is a retired firefighter from Coventry.

He first became interested in diving when he was 16 or 17 and met someone who had done caving with the Scouts, and went on to learn to dive when he was at university.

"The defining moment didn't come until my mother called me in to watch a TV program called Underground Eiger, about two divers linking up what was then the longest cave-dive in the world," Mr Stanton told publication Divernet in 2007.

"After watching it, I just knew that cave-diving was for me."

Mr Stanton has since been recognised as a leading cave diver, and in 2012 he was appointed to the Order of the British Empire.

"It isn't particularly unusual for me to get official looking letters in the post because of my international rescue work," he told the Underwater Marketing Company afterwards.

"When I got notification of this on behalf of the Palace I was absolutely astounded. I'm just doing work I enjoy to the best of my ability."

Mr Stanton was also involved in the rescue of six British soldiers who were trapped for eight days in a flooded cave in Mexico in 2004.

"It took about nine hours to get them all out," he told the Coventry Telegraph in 2012.

He's also been awarded for his firefighting. He was named "Hero of the Year" by the West Midlands Fire Service in 2011.

Alex Daw, who used to supervise Mr Stanton at the West Midlands Fire Service, called him "cool, calm and collected".

"If the kids have got someone there like him, they're safe," he told AP.

An incredibly private person

Mr Volanthen, 47, is an IT consultant from Bristol

His mother Jill Volanthen told the Daily Mail that he got into diving at a university club.

That's not his only extreme pursuit - she says he also runs marathons and has climbed El Capitan in Yosemite Park.

"John's an incredibly private person who doesn't like to talk about what he does, so I'm sure he'll be amazed by how fascinated everyone is," she said.

In an interview with the Sunday Times in 2013, Mr Volanthen spoke about needing the right temperament for the job.

"The flight response now isn't always appropriate. Panic and adrenaline are great in certain situations, but not in cave-diving. The last thing you want is any adrenaline whatsoever," he said.

Previous mission

This isn't the first time the pair have dived together.

In 2010, they were involved in the attempted rescue of Eric Establie, a professional diver and caving expert from France.

Establie had been on a mission to map the Ardeche Gorge near Marseille in France, but a rock fall had blocked his exit.

Mr Stanton and Mr Volanthen were flown in by the RAF to help find Establie, and eight days after he went missing, they found his body 780 metres from the cave entrance.

"As soon as the French got in touch there was no question that I would not be going over," Stanton said afterwards according to the Birmingham Mail.

"This diver was a fellow cave diver and a colleague, so I am sure he would have done the same for me."

Mr Stanton and Mr Volanthen were honoured with bronze medals by the UK's Royal Humane Society in 2012 for their efforts.

"Richard and John knew that the entire rescue depended on them and that, should anything go wrong, there was little chance of being rescued," the organisation said.


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