Thai cave heroes tell Wesley College students gruelling rescue details

Claire TyrrellThe West Australian
VideoTwo divers involved in the Thai cave rescue have been named as joint Australians of the Year.

Thai cave heroes Craig Challen and Richard Harris say everyone will get their chance to step up and be a hero.

The joint Australians of the Year addressed 500 students at Wesley College, telling gruelling details of the dramatic rescue.

Diving mates Dr Challen and Dr Harris defied the odds to pull 12 young soccer players and their coach free from a flooded Thai cave in a marathon rescue last July.

Retired WA vet Dr Challen said he saw their accidental hero status as an opportunity to educate others about rising to challenges.

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“We are just a couple of ordinary guys and we found ourselves in an extraordinary situation, and that can happen to anyone,” he said.

“Everybody is going to have a chance at some time in their life to step up and be counted — don’t miss that chance when it comes along.”

He said he believed the children in the cave had a “zero per cent chance of survival” and was glad he was wrong.

“Originally we thought the plan was impossible — we only undertook it because there was no alternative whatsoever,” he said.

“I am glad to say our assessment of the risks initially was completely wrong.”

Dr Harris said because the chance of the boys coming out alive was so low, he thought every anaesthetic he administered could kill.

“Each anaesthetic I knew carried such a high risk that effectively we might be euthanising the children,” he said.

“The only reason that seemed acceptable was the alternative was to leave them to very slow and horrible deaths.”

The South Australian doctor welcomed the accolades he and Dr Challen received but said the knife’s-edge mission could have easily yielded a very different result.

“If some or all of the children had died it would be a very different situation and I don’t think we’d be sitting here talking about it,” he said.

“There would be a lot of soul searching going on and probably a lot of criticism about the technique.”

The duo will continue to travel the country speaking to schools and other groups.

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