On Tuesday, July 10th, the world watched and breathed a sigh of relief as all 12 young members of the Thai soccer team the Wild Boars and their coach were rescued from the Tham Luang Cave in Thailand. 

The story of the Thai soccer team and their coach, who had been trapped in Tham Luang Cave area in northern Chiang Rai province since June 23, 2018, has produced heroes – among them are John Volanthen and Rick Stanton – and tragedy, as a Thai Navy Seal, Sgt. Major Saman Gunan, lost his life valiantly trying to deliver oxygen canisters to the stranded boys.

John Volanthen, who is a Scouter from the UK, and Rick Stanton are the British cave diving experts who first located the missing Thai soccer team and were charged with helping bring them out in what became a treacherous, multi-day journey through narrow passageways and deep flood waters.

A Scout’s Effort

John Volanthen’s caving experience began as a young child. He is now a British cave diver who specializes in rescues, but he was first a Scout.

Volanthen grew up in Brighton, England and his interest in caving began when he was a Scout. He attended university at De Montfort University in Leicester where he began cave diving through a social club. He is also currently a volunteer scout leader with the Somerset Scouts, through which he takes children on cave excursions.

David Hunt, Volanthen’s former Scout leader was interviewed and explained how John’s participation in Scouting helped John become the hero he is today. 

“John was always willing to enter anything and put his time and effort into anything,” Hunt said. “Anything that his scout leaders organized with the Scouts, whether it was an adventurous activity or a simple Scout show he put his whole heart into it.” Hunt also explained that John was naturally a great swimmer, a skill which has helped him become such a talented diver.

His mother, Jill  Volanthen, said in an interview that when he heard about the Thai soccer team trapped in the caves, he immediately flew to Thailand as part of the international rescue effort.

When Volanthen reached the cave system in Thailand, he joined a rescue team and entered the caves to find the boys.

Along with Rick Stanton, Volanthen pushed ahead of the other divers in the group while depositing oxygen canisters along the route. Finally, they managed to dive the last section and get through into the chamber where they happened upon the missing boys. The soccer team was all there, waiting on a small ledge just above the water, says Bill Whitehead, vice chair of the British Cave Rescue Council.

thai soccer team rescue
British cave-diver John Volanthen removes his diving suit after walking out from Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. (From heavy.com)

Video footage that went viral on the internet shows the moment the two men located the boys in the cave. The footage warmed hearts around the world – people could now breathe a sigh of relief knowing the boys had been found. Volanthen’s voice can be heard on that video, reassuring the boys that help was coming.

After this discovery, the expert cave divers spent multiple days guiding the trapped football team and their coach out of the flooded cave with support from Thai Navy SEALs, reported ABC.net.au. According to CNN, five SEAL divers from Thailand and 13 international divers were involved in the rescue.

At times the rescue was very difficult and dangerous. The life of one Thai Navy SEAL, Sgt. Major Saman Gunan, was lost. However, the rescue became a success when all of the boys were rescued. 

Not only is this a lesson in what Scouting can prepare a person for, it is also a lesson in being prepared. 

“What I have learned since I started exploring caves as a 13-year-old Boy Scout 55 years ago, is that caving absolutely requires you to adhere to the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared,” Distinguished Eagle Scout Bill Steele reported to Bryan on Scouting. Steele started caving when he was a 13-year-old Boy Scout and never stopped. He’s a member of the Explorers Club and has completed hundreds of caving expeditions.

We are grateful for Scouts all over the world who are heroes both in their everyday life and in extraordinary circumstances. We are also relieved by the rescue of all members of the Wild Boars soccer team and thank all of the rescue service members and volunteers around the world who came to help. 

Madison Austin
studies Public Relations at Brigham Young University and is a marketing specialist at the Utah National Parks Council. She is an avid hiker and enjoys being outdoors. Growing up in the mountainous regions of Colorado and Virginia enabled her to follow these passions. After moving to Utah to attend college, she has spent her time fostering both a career in Communications and a love for Utah's National Parks.

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