Thai cave rescuer: We didn’t have time to focus on emotion during operation

·2-min read

One of the divers who helped save 12 young footballers from a cave in Thailand has recalled how those involved did not have time to focus on emotion, only “the nuts and bolts of the rescue”.

Richard Stanton said the situation had been “chaotic” and that he and his team had had to “write the operations manual” for the mission due to its unprecedented nature.

Speaking to the PA news agency at the UK premiere of Thirteen Lives, which follows the events of the rescue, Mr Stanton also praised director Ron Howard for his work on the film.

The movie stars Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen as divers John Volanthen and Mr Stanton respectively.

Recalling the events of 2018, he told PA: “When we arrived in Thailand, it was completely chaotic.

“It was clear that we had previous experience that could probably make a difference.

“It was like something none of us had ever experienced before, we really did write the operational manuals as we went along.

“We didn’t have time to be thinking about anything but the nuts and bolts of the rescue, not necessarily emotions.”

On the decision to have Howard direct the film he added: “As far as I was concerned, Apollo 13 was a fantastic film, very relevant, real-life dramatic rescue, just like Thailand, so it was the perfect choice of director from our point of view.”

Howard told PA that there had been risks taken “on so many different levels” during the operation and he had tried to “dramatise as much of that as I could”.

EE British Academy Film Awards 2019 – Arrivals – London
Actor Viggo Mortensen plays Mr Stanton in the film (PA)

“What I began to recognise as we were working on the movie is that there are a lot of reasons to be fearful in a situation like that; the physical, but also the emotional,” he said.

“What scar tissue emotionally can you take away from an event like this, especially if things don’t go well?

“Politics, career decisions, these things, these people took risks on so many different levels to make this happen and I tried to dramatise as much of that as I could in this film.”

In 2019, following the ordeal, Mr Stanton and Mr Volanthen were both presented with the George Medal for their roles in the rescue mission.

The boys, aged between 11 and 16 and who were members of the Wild Boars youth football team, had cycled with their coach to the caves to explore when they became marooned inside.

Thirteen Lives is scheduled for limited theatrical release later this month before being made available on Prime Video in August.

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