BANGKOK • A British caver, who helped rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a Thai cave, has said he may take legal action against Mr Elon Musk after the entrepreneur called him a "pedo".
Mr Musk, Tesla's chief executive officer, launched the extraordinary tirade against Mr Vernon Unsworth without providing any explanation, after the cave expert slammed his offer of a miniature submarine to extract the footballers from the Tham Luang cave as a "PR stunt".
The Wild Boars team members were rescued last week by an international team of divers and rescuers through a narrow network of twisting, flooded tunnels.
Mr Unsworth, who provided mapping knowledge of the cave to rescuers, said Mr Musk's prototype would have had "absolutely no chance of working". Mr Musk responded on Sunday in a bizarre series of tweets referring to Mr Unsworth, without using his name, as "pedo guy". "Pedo" is short for paedophile.
The entrepreneur doubled down on his claim, tweeting from his official account to more than 22 million followers: "Bet ya a signed dollar it's true."
Mr Musk later deleted the tweets.
He had proposed using "a tiny, kid-size submarine" featuring technology from his space exploration firm to evacuate the boys, and travelled to Thailand with a prototype last Tuesday.
Mr Unsworth said yesterday that he had not reviewed the tweets in full and had only heard about them.
But asked if he would take legal action against Mr Musk over the allegation, Mr Unsworth said: "If it's what I think it is, yes."
The caver said he would make a decision when he flies back to Britain this week.
Mr Unsworth, who lives part of the year in Thailand, took part in the gargantuan 18-day effort to rescue the 12 boys and their coach, a mission that ended last Tuesday when the last five members were extracted.
The boys are expected to be released from hospital on Thursday.
Yesterday, dancers swayed to the beat of traditional music, candles were lit and food offerings placed near the Tham Luang Nang Non, or "cave of the reclining lady", in a ceremony to thank benevolent spirits for the rescue of the soccer team.
Thai legend says the cave marks the spot where a beautiful princess committed suicide after her father's soldiers killed her lover, a commoner.
Reports also emerged yesterday that two Australian divers who took part in the rescue had obtained diplomatic immunity before the operation, in case it failed.
Anaesthetist Richard Harris and diver Craig Challen were protected from prosecution if anything went awry following negotiations between the Australian and Thai authorities, according to Australian broadcaster ABC.
Mr Challen said the divers had been uncertain if they would be able to save all 12 boys and their coach.
The boys got stuck in the cave after wandering in on June 23, only to find themselves trapped by rising floodwaters. They were found nine days later several kilometres inside.
Mr Musk's tweets attacking Mr Unsworth prompted condemnation from those who took part in the mission to save the boys.
Mr Claus Rasmussen, a Danish national and instructor at Blue Label diving in Phuket, called the allegations "inappropriate" and praised Mr Unsworth's role in the rescue. "He was one of the driving forces in getting everything done and clarifying for us divers what was going on."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS