Australian doctor’s ingenious idea helps save trapped Thai soccer players

Dr Richard Harris played vital role saving trapped soccer players. He was asked to assist rescue due to medical expertise and diving experience. Sadly, Dr Harris was told his father had died moments after mission was accomplished. The 53-year-old, from Adelaide, is being hailed for an ingenious medical idea

Australian doctor’s ingenious idea helps save trapped Thai soccer players
Dr Richard Harris is known globally both for his work as a doctor and his ability to retrieve people from difficult places
Image courtesy: BBC

An Australian doctor who risked his life to save 12 soccer players trapped in a Thai cave was told his father had died just moments after the daring mission was accomplished.

Dr Richard ‘Harry’ Harris, the last person out of the Tham Luang cave system after the triumphant rescue, learned the sad news shortly after he helped the last of the boys to safety on Tuesday.

“It is with great sadness that I confirm Harry’s dad passed away last night a short time after the successful rescue operation in Thailand,” said Andrew Pearce, Dr Harris’s boss and MedSTAR clinical director.

“This is clearly a time of grief for the Harris family, magnified by the physical and emotional demands of being part of this week’s highly complex and ultimately successful rescue operation.”

“He will be coming home soon and taking some well-earned time off to be with his family.”

Australian doctor’s ingenious idea helps save trapped Thai soccer players
Dr Richard Harris spent three days underground with the young Thais and their coach

Dr Harris was described as ‘essential’ to the rescue operation because of his unique skills and expertise, including 30 years of cave diving experience and his work as a medical retrieval specialist with South Australia’s MedSTAR service.

Dr Harris was known globally both for his work as a doctor and his ability to retrieve people from difficult places.

“All the team at SA Ambulance Service is incredibly proud of Dr Harris. It has been a tumultuous week with highs and lows,” Dr Pearce said.

“We are delighted that Harry and the boys are safe and that he was able to play such a remarkable role in the Australian response.”

“Harry is a quiet and kind man who did not think twice about offering his support on this mission.”

The 53-year-old anaesthetist, from Adelaide, was hailed for an ingenious medical idea that helped the trapped boys stay calm during the gruelling 1.7 km swim to the surface.

Deep inside the cave system, Dr Harris administered a mild sedative to the boys, ensuring the inexperienced swimmers didn’t panic in the water, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The astonishing story has gripped Thailand and the world since the group was discovered trapped alive by two British cave divers on July 02, nine days after disappearing while exploring the Tham Luang cave system.

All 12 players, pictured from top left clockwise, Adul Sam-on, 14, Panumas Saengdee, 13, Sompong Jaiwong, 13, Ekkarat Wongsookchan, 14, Pipat Bodhi, 15, Peerapat Sompiangjai, 16, Pornchai Kamluang, 16, Prajak Sutham, 14, Chanin Wiboonrungrueng, 11, Mongkol Boonpiam, 14, Nattawut 'Tle' Takamsai, 14 and Duangpetch Promthep, 13 Image courtesy: Daily Mail
All 12 players, pictured from top left clockwise, Adul Sam-on, 14, Panumas Saengdee, 13, Sompong Jaiwong, 13, Ekkarat Wongsookchan, 14, Pipat Bodhi, 15, Peerapat Sompiangjai, 16, Pornchai Kamluang, 16, Prajak Sutham, 14, Chanin Wiboonrungrueng, 11, Mongkol Boonpiam, 14, Nattawut ‘Tle’ Takamsai, 14 and Duangpetch Promthep, 13 Image courtesy: Daily Mail

Australia played a vital role in the operation, sending 19 personnel including six military divers and Dr Harris, who on Saturday assessed the boys’ health and cleared the way for the dangerous operation to go ahead.

When Dr Harris joined the Thai rescue crew at the Tham Luang cave system, he convinced officials to change their plans and bring the weakest boys out first, instead of the strongest.

The initial strategy was to extract the strongest boys first because they would have more chance of making it to safety while the others could stay back and build up strength.

But that was revised after Dr Harris’ health assessment found some of the weaker boys may not survive if they were left behind, according to Thai media.

Thai-cave-rescue
The astonishing story has gripped Thailand and the world since the group was discovered trapped on July 02. Thai rescue team members are pictured at the scene. Image courtesy: Daily Mail

The Australians were part of an international rescue team headed by Thai navy SEALs that braved dangerous conditions to extract the final five members of the group from the flooded cave, where they had been trapped for more than two weeks.

The other eight boys had been extracted from the cave on Sunday and Monday.

Onlookers in front of Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital watch and cheer as ambulances transport the last rescued schoolboys and their coach
Onlookers in front of Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital watch and cheer as ambulances transport the last rescued schoolboys and their coach

The Thai navy SEALs chant ‘Hooyah’ rang around the media centre opposite the site when news filtered through around 6.30pm local time on Tuesday that coach Ekapol Chanthawong, 25, was the last to be pulled from the cave.

Source: Daily Mail