SYDNEY • An Australian doctor who looked after the young Thai football team during their har-rowing cave ordeal emerged from the flooded underground complex to the sad news that his own father had died.
Dr Richard Harris, a world-renowned medic and diver whose presence in the dramatic rescue was requested specially by experts, was reportedly the last person to leave the water-logged cavern on Tuesday.
"Harry", as he is known in the global caving community, cancelled a planned holiday and jetted in to northern Thailand as part of the international team trying to get the boys out of the Tham Luang cave.
"It is with great sadness that I confirm that Harry's dad passed away last night a short time after the successful rescue operation in Thailand," said Dr Andrew Pearce, head of clinical services at SAAS MedStar, where Dr Harris works.
"I have spoken with Harry. 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."
The circumstances of Dr Harris' father's death are not known, but Dr Pearce said that he was not sick when his son left on his dangerous mission.
Australian media said Dr Harris ventured more than 4km into the flooded cave to assess the 12 boys and their coach each day after they were found, giving final approval on their fitness to be taken out. Broadcaster ABC said it was also Dr Harris who decided in what order they should leave.
But the anaesthetist insisted he was not the hero of the piece.
"The big heroes in this are the children and the four Thai navy Seals who were looking after them," he told Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in a Skype call yesterday.
"They are the toughest blokes and kids I have ever had the privilege to meet. They were the ones responsible for their own morale and safety."