Hero Thai cave doctor tragically learns of father's death after saving football team

Hero Thai cave doctor tragically learns of father's death after saving football team

All of the 12 Thai boys from the Wild Boars academy team who became trapped inside a flooded cave network have been rescued, along with their 25-year-old coach. The boys, whose ages range from 11 to 16, were stranded with their coach, Ekaphol Chantawong, inside the six-mile Tham Luang cave in the Doi Nang Non mountain range on the 23rd of June.

The operation to extract them took place nice days later when British rescue divers located the football team sheltering on a ledge surrounded by water. About two miles of flooded, narrow passageways separated them from the main entrance.

Now, an Australian doctor who was the last person out of the cave on Tuesday has discovered that his father passed away while he was working on the rescue mission.

thai cave rescue Credit: Getty

Dr. Richard Harris was meant to be on vacation but instead put his life at risk to help rescue the 12 young boys and their coach who were stranded in the Chiang Rai cave before monsoon rains arrived.

While the anaesthetist has not spoken about his father's death, his superior, Dr. Andrew Pearce has spoken with "Harry" - as he is known to his friends and family. "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," Pearce told ABC News. "He will be coming home soon and taking some well-earned time off to be with his family. He has asked that the family’s privacy is respected at this time."

Despite celebrations ringing out across Thailand and the globe yesterday following the successful operation, Dr. Harris and three Navy SEALS remained in the cave, and didn't emerge to safety until several hours later.

Dr. Harris, who hails from Adelaide, was one of a 20-strong Australian crew sent to help the rescue effort. He was specifically called in by Thai authorities on account of his medical skills and 30 years of diving experience.

The doctor was responsible for assessing the health of the boys and their coach, and determined who needed to get out of the cave the quickest and who could afford to wait.

Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, has since asserted that it took an incredible team effort to free the boys - stressing that Dr. Harris' contributions were invaluable. "He was an integral part of the rescue attempt,” she told ABC News.

On Wednesday, Thai authorities announced that the boys and their coach lost an average of 2kg during the 17-day ordeal, but said that they were otherwise in good health.

"From our assessment, they are in good condition and not stressed. The children were well taken care of in the cave. Most of the boys lost an average of 2 kg," an inspector for Thailand's health department informed reporters.