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13 Jul 2018

South Australian anaesthetist Dr Richard Harris has been hailed a hero for the role he played in rescuing the Thai soccer team trapped deep inside Thailand’s Tham Luang cave complex. 

Twelve boys aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach, went missing on June 23 while exploring the caves. They were discovered nine days later stranded about four kilometres into the system.

All up the boys spent more than two weeks inside the cave but were successfully brought to safety during three stages of a highly dangerous rescue mission.

Dr Harris is an expert cave diver and attended all of the boys to check on their health. He signed off on each of them before they were brought out.

He was the last person to come out of the caves. 

The 53-year-old has been praised for his efforts by, among others, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Thai authorities, and AMA President Dr Tony Bartone.

“Dr Harris’s efforts here are nothing short of absolutely exceptional, and beyond and above the call of duty,” Dr Bartone said.

“But it’s typical of many of the doctors that make up the medical profession in Australia.”

Leader of the rescue mission, acting Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osotanakorn, described Dr Harris’s efforts as: “very good. The best – not good – the very best.”

Mr Turnbull had asked Dr Harris to call him as soon as the rescue was over to let him know he was safe.

The Prime Minister thanked all of the Australians involved in the mission and promised a reception for them.

Ms Bishop also praised all the Australians involved in the successful rescue, making special mention of Dr Harris.

“He was in Vanuatu in about 2013 as part of the Australian aid medical assistance team overseas, so he is well-known to us,” she said.

“He is also an expert in this kind of cave rescue...

“We are absolutely delighted that our rescue team has been able to assist the Thai authorities to bring about this quite remarkable result.

“This is what Australians do so well. Under our aid program, we have tragically many opportunities to support neighbours in times of crisis and so this is just another example of Australia being a good friend, a good neighbour, and helping out when it is needed.”

Dr Harris' own father died just after the rescue mission finished.

Twenty Australians were involved in the rescue mission, including divers from the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Navy.



Published: 13 Jul 2018