PADI Awards Medal of Valour to Thai Cave Rescuers
The divers instrumental in the rescue of 12 Thai boys and their football coach from a Chiang Rai cave in July this year are to be awarded PADI's first ever 'Medal of Valour' in recognition of their efforts.
Rick Stanton, John Volanthen, Dr Richard Harris, Jason Mallinson and Chris Jewell will be awarded the medal at the PADI social event at this year's DEMA show in Las Vegas on 13 November. Their heroic rescue of the Wild Boars youth football team prompted PADI to create the medal to formally recognise their contributions to one of the most challenging rescue operations in scuba diving history.
The team and their coach had been trapped for a total of 19 days after monsoon rains flooded the Tham Luang cave system in northern Thailand. Rescue attempts were hampered by the volume of water, extremely narrow passageways and the threat of further rain. Thai Navy Seal Saman Kunan tragically lost his life during the attempt.
With the world's media focused on the rescue, expert cave divers from around the world descended on Chiang Rai. Over 1,000 volunteers were involved in the rescue.
'It was an awe-inspiring example of humanity at its best, focused on a single noble purpose,' said Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide. 'This complex rescue operation demonstrated action and focus propelled by the unshakeable conviction that those boys would not die on diving’s watch. Rick Stanton, Jason Mallinson and everyone who was part of this effort faced and accepted the difficulties, dangers and risks inherent in the rescue. On behalf of the entire PADI family, it is an honour to recognize these heroes and extend our immense gratitude for representing diving’s finest hour.'
British duo John Volanthen and Richard Stanton, members of the voluntary British Cave Rescue Council were first to make contact with the boys, 'rake thin and exhausted' after already having been trapped for 9 days on a raised area of the cave system known as Pattaya Beach. Together with Jason Mallinson, also a member of the UK's international cave rescue team and Chris Jewell, a UK based exploratory cave diver, they led the rescue operations which eventually saw the boys and their coach brought safely to the surface.
Dr Richard 'Harry' Harris, an Australian specialist in anaesthesia and aeromedical retrieval medicine, played a critical role in the operation, administering sedatives to the boys to facilitate their extraction under extreme and complex conditions.
'Their daring mission is a wonderful opportunity to show the world what the diving community is made of, and what can be accomplished through a combination of proper training, trust, courage, passion and perseverance,' says Richardson.