By Agence France-Presse
British cave divers who helped rescue 12 Thai boys and their football coach from deep inside a flooded cave were guests of honor Tuesday at a reception hosted by Prime Minister Theresa May.
Among those invited to Downing Street was John Volanthen, one of the divers who first found the team after they went missing, in an international rescue mission that gripped the world.
“John, you have said that you’re not heroes… well to most of us you are,” May told him, adding: “That was an amazing rescue mission.”
She also paid tribute to a former Thai Navy SEAL, Saman Kunan, who died when his air ran out during a resupply mission.
“He lost his life saving the lives of others — a danger you also faced,” May told the divers at a reception that included the Thai ambassador to Britain, Pisanu Suvanajata.
Volanthen also offered his thoughts to the victim’s family, and said it had been “an honor to join the incredible effort to rescue these boys and their coach”.
He said that when he and fellow British diver Rick Stanton found the boys, “we were very pleased” but also concerned at getting them out.
When they were safely out of the cave, the 47-year-old said: “We were all very relieved. That was the main emotion because there was a lot that could have gone wrong.”
Asked about the global media attention, he said: “We ignored it and focused on what needed doing.”
In total eight cave divers and three other cave rescuers traveled to Thailand from Britain for the rescue, according to the British Cave Rescue Council.