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The doctor who chose to stay in the cave

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© Chris Dalton for OZTek OZTek2017 Technical Diver of the Year - Dr. Richard Harris.

BBC News


It was his rare combination of talents that led Australian doctor Richard Harris deep into the Tham Luang cave in Thailand.

When the Wild Boars football team was located deep inside the cave, after being missing for a week, the Adelaide anaesthetist abandoned his holiday in Thailand and volunteered to help.

He went in to assess the boys' health and stayed with them for three days.

It was under his direction that the weakest boys were first led out with the others successfully following in the complex operation.

Dr Harris, known as Harry, is believed to have been one of the last rescuers out of the cave.
  • The heroes who saved the 'Wild Boars'
  • How the operation unfolded
  • In pictures: the story of the rescue
  • Seventeen days in darkness

[post_ads]But relief and celebration were suddenly cut short by personal tragedy - on Wednesday it emerged that Dr Harris's father had died shortly after the rescue's finish.

His employer, South Australia's ambulance service, said his family's grief had been "magnified" by the physical and emotional demands of the rescue operation.

"It has been a tumultuous week with highs and lows," Dr Andrew Pearce from MedSTAR said, asking for privacy.

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

But relief and celebration were suddenly cut short by personal tragedy - on Wednesday it emerged that Dr Harris's father had died shortly after the rescue's finish.

His employer, South Australia's ambulance service, said his family's grief had been "magnified" by the physical and emotional demands of the rescue operation.

"It has been a tumultuous week with highs and lows," Dr Andrew Pearce from MedSTAR said, asking for privacy.

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

    Joy and relief as Thai cave boys rescued
    The heroes who saved the 'Wild Boars'

Ms Bishop said the South Australian was "internationally renowned" for his cave rescue expertise.

The experienced diver, also an underwater photographer, has completed several cave-diving expeditions in Australia, New Zealand, Christmas Island and China.

One tragic expedition in 2011, involved the retrieval of the body of his friend, Agnes Milowka, who ran out of air during a cave dive in South Australia.
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Ms Bishop said the doctor is also known to authorities for his work on medical assistance teams in natural disasters in the Pacific region, and has taken part in Australian aid missions in Vanuatu.

"[He] is an extraordinary Australian and he has certainly made a big difference to the rescue effort here in Thailand," she said.

She also praised his diving partner, Craig Challen, a vet from Perth who accompanied Dr Harris into the caves.

The pair were part of a team of 20 Australians, including police and navy divers, who assisted in the operation.

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