A Kiwi diver has revealed the nervous weight of responsibility he felt as part of the rescue operation to save the 12 Thai boys trapped in a flooded cave.
Thai rescue team members walk inside a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand.
Source: Associated Press
Having lived in Thailand for the past 15 years as a diver for offshore oil and gas construction, ex-Aucklander Ross Schnauer played a role in the final stage of the operation, retrieving the last four boys along with their coach.
The 43-year-old Kiwi, detailed to the NZ Herald how he first got involved in the operation after returning from a diving job in Scotland.
"Basically I flew from Bangkok to Chiang Mai the next morning, went straight to the staging area at the cave and joined in with the Thai Navy Seals," he said.
Schnauer touched on the stress of performing his duties while knowing the whole world was watching.
His role was to carry the boys on a stretcher through the end of the dive zone out of the cave.
"I was a little bit nervous, I have got to be honest. The Navy Seals told us where we would be and what to expect," he said.
"The cavern we were in had a fairly high ceiling and was about the size of a basketball court, but obviously an odd shape. It was very rocky on both sides.
"It was dark so we all had head lamps, and there was one spotlight. It was slippery in parts and the deepest water we had to wade through was up to my chest."
Schnauer said there was no opportunity to engage with the boys themselves, and his focus was purely the task at hand: where his feet where over the rocks.
"The section of cave we were in was very rocky and unstable. You had to be very careful where you put your feet," he said.
"To be honest, I didn't notice anything about the boys, I was too worried about where to put my feet and making sure I had a tight grip of the stretcher. You did not want to drop them at this point."
Schnauer admitted he had only played a "small role" in the effort and paid tribute to the impressive duration which the rescue divers were underwater in the cave network.
"When the divers came out we were obviously congratulating them and helping them with their gear, but I think they just wanted to get out of there because they had been in there a long time. It was pretty impressive," he said.
"I do off-shore work and can live in a chamber for 28 days, but it is totally different to this. I have never done anything like this as I don't like caves.
"The teamwork that they went through to get them out is quite phenomenal really.
"It showed what people can do when they all collectively come up with a way to do something that has never been done before, and work together."
"Maybe this has galvanised them, hearing each other's stories and knowing they are not alone," say the nurses behind the Facebook group, New Zealand, please hear our voice.