BANGKOK • An Australian doctor at the centre of the effort to rescue a group of boys and their football coach trapped in a cave in Thailand's Chiang Rai province convinced Thai officials to change their rescue plans and get the weakest boys out first.
Dr Richard Harris, 53, an anaesthetist from Adelaide, undertook the dangerous dive to reach the boys and their coach last Saturday, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.
He gave the final review on the boys' health, paving the way for the rescue attempt that has led to eight boys being extracted so far.
The Daily Mail reported that the initial plan was to extract the strongest boys first, while the others would stay back and build their strength.
However, after Dr Harris' health assessment found that some of the weaker boys may not survive if they were left behind, the plan was revised.
It is understood that the British divers participating in the rescue specifically asked for Dr Harris' expertise.
Mr David Strike, a dive event organiser who has known Dr Harris for more than a decade, said Dr Harris had all the characteristics needed for the dangerous mission, with more than 30 years of diving experience.
"Quite apart from his own cave exploration experiences, as an anaesthetist and a medical professional who is also involved in retrieval medicine, he has always struck me as a person who is capable of calmly assessing any situation and then acting appropriately," said Mr Strike.
On Sunday morning, former Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osotthanakorn said a team of 13 international divers and five Thai navy Seal members went into the cave to commence the mission.
Dr Harris and another Australian friend of his, as well as six Australian Federal Police divers, were involved in the rescue.
"Richard is just one member of a team of uniquely qualified and extraordinary people prepared to sacrifice their own comfort, safety and well-being for the benefit of others. It is an over-used term, but all of those involved are true heroes," Mr Strike said.