B.C. diver part of crew that rescued Thai soccer team

13 Jul 2018 | Canada
B.C. diver part of crew that rescued Thai soccer team

One of the divers involved in the daring rescue operation that freed a dozen young soccer players and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand this month hails from B.C.'s Lower Mainland.

Langley's Erik Brown has built a reputation as a diver and technical instructor since leaving Canada more than a decade ago, and joined the international effort to extricate the team last week.

On Tuesday, with each youngster finally safe, Brown posted a celebratory photo with two of his fellow rescuers on Facebook.

"9 days. 7 missions and 63 hours inside Tham Luang Cave. Success," he wrote.

The boys, who range in age from 11 to 16, endured more than two desperate weeks underground before they were all escorted out through the cave's dark caverns over a period of three days.

The heroic rescue set off sighs of relief across the world. That was especially true back at Brown's family home in B.C., where his loved ones waited with bated breath to hear that he, too, had made it out alive.

His mom, Dorothy Brown, recalled when she first learned her son would be taking part in the rescue.

"The first day-and-a-half he wasn't sure if they needed him, so he wasn't sure if he was going to go back to Koh Tao, where he is residing now," she told CTV New. "Then all of a sudden I get an email 'OK, mom, I won't be able to talk to you for a few days, probably, because I'm going in.'"

Communications with him from then on were sparse. The family would get brief updates between dives letting them know Brown had made it out, but then he would have to rest up for the next mission.

The risks were clear from the outset, but the danger became much more palpable after the July 6 death of former navy SEAL Saman Gunan, who ran out of oxygen during a dive.

"I was nervous, of course," Dorothy said. "I was nervous and waiting all night for the email coming in that he was safe."

That email eventually did arrive in her inbox, letting the family decompress and focus on how proud they are of his part in the historic rescue, which involved more than 1,000 people from around the world.

Kirk Brown said he knows his brother Erik wouldn't want people calling him a hero, but there's no denying his actions were brave.

"He's very brave," Kirk said. "He went in there and executed what he was asked to do very well."

"It's truly a miracle it ended the way it did," said Dorothy. "Who would've thought it would have such a good outcome?"ctv