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

How many volunteers does it take to run a hockey team?

Meet the momma bears who make the Revelstoke Grizzlies’ games happen

Niedermayer jersey retirement ceremony a dream come true

Penticton minor hockey players bring home memories of a lifetime from Niedermayer jersey retirement

B.C. Interior free from measles

Vancouver measles outbreak hasn’t spread to the B.C. Interior

UPDATE: Tractor trailer overturned on Highway 3A near Yellow Lake

Drivers may be wise to plan an alternate route as crews will need to recover the truck

Highway one will be closed tomorrow for avalanche control near Golden

The closure is expected to last for two hours

Branching out: learning to ski at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

It’s the first time at the hill for the editor of Revelstoke Review

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

Pool plans disappoint Shuswap swim clubs

Salmon Arm mayor assures options for city rec centre only preliminary

Vehicle fire on Coquihalla near Kamloops

A large plume of smoke could be seen rising into the sky over Highway 5

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

Shuswap children’s organizations offer mixed reviews on Budget 2019

Concern over long waitlists, early intervention funding, but relief child care funds are included

Winter storm freezes U.S., halts air travel

Storm dumps snow or heavy rain, snarls travel in much of U.S.

Top blues talent joins festival roster

Salmon Arm’s Roots and Blues adds stellar Canadian acts to 2019 event

Most Read