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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Memory of a lifetime’: West Kelowna hockey star captures silver with Team Canada

Sarah Paul helped Team Canada to a silver place finish at the 2020 IIHF Women’s U18 Championships

Four things NOT to do if you run into Harry and Meghan in B.C.

Like many in British Columbia, you may be worried about running into… Continue reading

Perseverance and a love for running: Malindi Elmore shatters Canadian women’s marathon record

Malindi Elmore ran an time of 2:24:50 at the Houston Marathon on Sunday

Indie rockers Colour Tongues to kick off Western Canada tour in Kelowna

The band is set to take the stage at Fernando’s Pub on Feb. 6

YLW to host event to help ease people with autism into flying

The tour will take families through the entire pre-flight process

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

Summerland taxes expected to rise by 4.0%

Increase to add an estimated $77.73 to typical tax bill

Province asks health-care staff to be ‘vigilant’ in screening for possible coronavirus cases

This comes after U.S. health officials confirmed a case of the virus in Washington State

University of Victoria tells stories of Holocaust survivors with graphic novels

International storytelling initiative launched first meetings this winter

Tourism visits to the Thompson/Okanagan up 18 per cent year-over-year

In 2019, almost 11.4 million people spent at least one night visiting the region

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

B.C. player becomes only second Canadian to enter Hall of Fame of Baseball

Walker received 76.6 percent of the Baseball Writers of America Association vote

PHOTOS: Heavy snowfall breaks window, causing avalanche into B.C. newsroom office

It was a chaotic start to the week for the Kitimat Northern Sentinel

Most Read