The world rejoiced on Tuesday when it was announced that all 12 boys and their soccer coach had been rescued safely from the Thai cave where they had been trapped for 17 days. However Dr Richard Harris, who played a key role in the rescue effort, was faced with some heartbreaking news just hours after the last person was safely extracted.
The anaesthetist, from South Australia, was met with the news that his father had passed away a matter of hours after he emerged from the cave after the team successfully rescued the remaining four boys and their soccer team coach.
Dr Harris’ boss Dr Andrew Pearce confirmed the news and told the ABC: “This is clearly a time of grief for the Harris family, magnified by the physical and emotional demands of being part of this week’s highly complex and ultimately successful rescue operation.
“He will be coming home soon and taking some well-earned time off to be with his family. He has asked that the family’s privacy is respected at this time.”
Dr Harris, known to friends as ‘Harry’, was part of the expert team who successfully saved all 13 members of the Wild Boars soccer team, who were trapped inside Tham Luang Cave in northern Thailand for 17 days after heavy rain caused the cave system to flood.
The last child emerged on Tuesday at around 6pm local time (9pm AEST), according to Newscorp. In total, 19 divers assisted in the rescue of the final five members of the group, said to be the one of the toughest rescue operations to date. It is believed the youngest child, aged 11, was one of the last to be freed, although it was the boys’ 25-year-old coach who was the last to be rescued.
The Thai Navy SEAL shared an update on Facebook shortly after the rescue that loosely translates to “12 wild pigs and coaches out of the cave. Everyone safe”.
The boys were immediately transported by ambulance and helicopter to a hospital in the Thailand province of Chiang Rai, where they will receive medical attention and join their teammates who were previously rescued.
The boys in the team were aged between 11 and 16, while their coach was 25. It is believed the team became trapped four kilometres in the cave after heading in as a rite of passage. The team initially set off for their adventure on June 23 and an international rescue mission began on July 2 – more than a week after they vanished. Flash floods had made it nearly impossible for the team to escape the cave.