Thai cave rescue: A tribute to the human spirit

1 News Correspondent Kimberlee Downs in Chiang Rai says the rescue of 12 young footballers and their coach shows the best of humankind.

I want you to remember the name Saman Gunan.

A cast of divers, doctors and Navy SEALS combined their talents and bravery to carry out the seemingly impossible. Source: 1 NEWS

He was 38, a former Thai Navy SEAL. When he heard about the plight of a group of young footballers and their coach, trapped in a cave and facing seemingly insurmountable odds, he didn’t hesitate. He volunteered. 

On Friday, Gunan lost his life during what would eventually become one of the most compelling, elating, rescue stories in modern times. 

His would be the only life claimed by the Tham Luang caves. 

He is a hero. 

After Gunan’s death - he ran out of oxygen on his way back from placing air tanks along the cave’s escape route - Thailand’s Navy SEALs said his sacrifice wouldn’t be in vain. 

Four Thai Navy SEALs came out safely after being underground for days helping rescue 12 young footballers and their coach.
Four Thai Navy SEALs came out safely after being underground for days helping rescue 12 young footballers and their coach from caves in Chiang Rai. Source: Facebook/Thai Navy SEALs

A team of international divers and SEALs continued the work, eventually rescuing the entire team over three precarious days. 

For some it meant days of hours-long journeys. They had to navigate murky, cold waters, narrow passageways you could barely squeeze a person through. 

Some had the pressure of towing young boys behind them - many of whom couldn’t even swim. 

Others stayed deep in the underground cave, keeping the boys company and helping treat them. 

All knew time was of the essence, and that the rainy season could strike a cruel blow any day. 

They are heroes too. 

Then there are those who won’t get the same plaudits, but went out of their way to help in any way they could. 

The volunteers who worked in all sorts of capacities to support the rescue effort - cooking, translating, clearing trash. 

1 NEWS’ Correspondent Kimberlee Downs from Chiang Rai, Thailand, following the successful completion of the rescue. Source: Breakfast

The local shop owners who offered up power to keep the media’s equipment going. 

All compelled by the story of the Wild Boars: Lost deep underground, found alive against the odds, feared trapped for months, remarkably rescued in a two-and-a-half week ordeal. 

It sounds like the stuff of Hollywood - film producers are apparently already poking around. 

But this is one of those times when the true story is more compelling than any movie dramatisation could hope to be. 

“We don’t know if this is a miracle, science or what,” the Thai SEALs posted on Facebook, in the hours after the last of the group made it out. 

I’d submit another option. That it’s the best of the human spirit: endurance, compassion, selflessness, bravery, that means we can now celebrate this mission being completed. 

And as the world celebrates the improbable, heart-warming, captivating rescue of the Wild Boars, it should never forget the heroes who made it possible. 

Versions of synthetic cannabis in New Zealand up to 10 times stronger than strain that saw US 'zombie outbreak'

Experts are warning there are deadlier versions of synthetic cannabis available in New Zealand which are much more potent than the one which caused the so-called zombie outbreaks in the US.

The Government's been told two deadly types of synthetic cannabis are so potent they should be classified as class A drugs.

One of these drugs has been linked to a well-known case that rocked the United States in 2016.

"The concentrations we're seeing in New Zealand are much more potent than what we saw in the Zombie outbreak in New York," Health Minister David Clark says.

In some instances, the drugs found here were 10 times stronger.

The news comes after synthetic cannabis was linked to the deaths of at least 45 people since June 2017.

"I don't think we ever anticipated we'd get new synthetic drugs that would lead to so much harm," Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell told 1 NEWS.

Synthetic cannabis is already illegal - but the maximum punishment for dealers is two years in prison.

Making synthetic cannabis a class A drug would put it alongside methamphetamine, cocaine, magic mushrooms and lsd.

This would mean the police would have more power and the penalties would be significantly tougher for dealers and users.

The Government says it will make a decision on synthetic drugs in the coming weeks.

They're calling for the drug to be classified as Class A – the most harmful and dangerous. Source: 1 NEWS


Wellington bus network changes to be reviewed after council bombarded with complaints

Wellington's new bus network will be independently reviewed after ongoing complaints of buses being late, too full to board or not showing up at all.

The regional council today voted today to have the system reviewed and the results reported back by December.

Since the system was changed in July the council has been bombarded with complaints.

Councillors have also asked officers to change a route so that it began and ended in Kilbirnie, as it previously did, and for feedback on whether some other routes can be changed.

Regional council chief executive Greg Campbell said he took full responsibility for fixing the network's problems.

He said the review needed to be done quickly.

"Any commuter that is left stranded, or a bus that is late, that is of extreme concern. We have to get a clear view of what is happening. What an independent review can really do - particularly for management and council - is give a view of what has happened and articulate that well."

At the beginning of the meeting several Wellington residents addressed the council to let it know they were still unhappy with the new bus routes.

A Wellington principal said the recent re-jig of the routes was making his students late for class and putting them in danger.

St Patrick's College, Kilbirnie's rector Neal Swindells told this morning's meeting about 100-150 boys were using the new service.

"Currently our two 753 buses from the station in the afternoon are significantly overloaded and are unsafe. On Monday this week, they were both loaded to the gunnels and there were 30-odd students who couldn't get on. So what they do is they cross the road to catch the new 24 bus, which by the time it leaves St Pat's now is also overfull."

Commuters at a bus stop in Newtown. Source:


Motorcyclist in critical condition after crash near Upper Hutt

A serious crash has left a motorcyclist in critical condition and caused a section of State Highway 2 to close for a time near Kaitoke, Upper Hutt.

Police say a motorcyclist hit a barrier at Kaitoke this afternoon about 4:30pm.

The male rider was taken to hospital via helicopter in a critical condition.

The road at SH2 Kaitoke, Upper Hutt is now open again after closing for a time.

A road closure sign in front of a Police vehicle
A road closure sign in front of a Police vehicle. Source: 1 NEWS

Government reveals details of emails between Clare Curran and Derek Handley

Details of the email exchange between former Digital Services Minister Clare Curran and Derek Handley were revealed today during Parliament's Question Time. 

Ms Curran said she was not aware of RNZ's policies surrounding meetings with Minister's at the time.
Source: 1 NEWS

The messages were sent over the role of chief technology officer, with Ms Curran using her private Gmail account to send the emails. 

An offer to Mr Handley for the role was retracted by the Government last week, resulting in a $100,000 pay out to the entrepreneur. 

Acting State Services Minister Grant Robertson told the House the following about three exchanges between the pair about the role. 

First exchange

August 11: 

"Derek Handley emails Clare Curran about the chief technology officer position and questions about the role of the CTO, including resourcing for the role and potential conflicts of interest."

August 14

"Clare Curran replies to that email, confirming a call to discuss these matters."

August 15

"Derek Handley replies to that, confirming times for the call."

Second exchange

August 19

"Clare Curran emails Derek Handley regarding logistics around the next step on the process of appointment, including the content of any public statements that might be made, and refers to contract discussions with the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA)."

August 20

"Derek Handley responds to that email to Clare Curran about those issues, including the contact he has had with DIA and management of conflicts of interest."

Third exchange

August 21

"Clare Curran emails Derek Handley regarding issues that would be on the work plan of the chief technology officer and attaches some relevant background documents on those issues.

"On the same day, Derek Handley responds to Clare Curran, acknowledging the material and referring to the discussions that he is having with DIA."

Derek Handley says he’ll donate the compensation but is disappointed at the way the issue was handled. Source: 1 NEWS

The chief technology officer was intended to "drive a forward-looking digital agenda for New Zealand", said the then Minister for Government Digital Services Clare Curran, when the role was announced last December. 

The new Minister for Government Digital Services Megan Woods said the Government have put a "full stop" on the process.

Ms Curran was stripped of her position as Minister for Government Digital Services after not disclosing a meeting with Mr Handley previously.