Breathing massive sighs of relief for the 12 boys and their coach, and saying a prayer for the brave Thai Navy Seal Sgt. Saman Kunan who perished during the rescue efforts, we take a look at how Jim Warny and Cathal Mullane aided the rescue.
Though the Tham Luang Nang Non caves of Thailand's Chiang Rai province are over 6,000 miles away from Ireland, two heroic men from Ireland played very different but vital roles in the extraordinary mission to rescue the 12 young soccer players and their coach trapped in the flooded cave system.
There on the scene was Jim Warny, 35, a Belgian man and expert cave diver who has lived in Ennis, Co. Clare for the last 15 years. He was one of the team of divers - currently believed to be of 20 people - who made the rescue happen.
Warny is a high-ranking member of the Irish Cave Rescue Organization, which often works with its British counterpart.
The Thai cave rescue was extremely treacherous. Watch how rescuers saved the 12 boys and their soccer coach, passing through a flooded channel that was no wider than a person at times. https://t.co/BljNyrMRFq pic.twitter.com/rBgdyLRKRC— CNN (@CNN) July 11, 2018
Brían MacCoitir of the ICRO told The Journal that Warny was contacted after the rescue coordinators realized they would need more specialists and that he departed for Thailand from Shannon Airport on Friday.
“The British Cave Rescue Council is an umbrella body for cave rescue teams like ourselves. We are affiliated even though we are independent,” he said.
“They sent over initial groups of divers and a few support staff but when plans changed and it formulated to diving out teams – they sent further request for more assistance.”
According to the Irish Times, in 2010, Warny set a new Irish-British cave traversing record in Galway in 2010 with his friend Artur Kozlowski. Tragically, in September 2011, Warny would lead the rescue efforts to recover Kozlowski’s body after he perished while diving the Pollonora cave system between the Slieve Aughty mountains and the Burren, Co Clare.
Warny dived the system himself and discovered his friend’s body, then coordinated with Irish police and British cave rescuers Rick Stanton and John Volanthen to complete the recovery. Stanton and Volanthen have both been involved with the Thailand rescue mission.
You can see Warny at work in the following film by Quentin Cooper, preparing to dive Pollballygoonaun in the Burren, Kilfenora, Co.Clare.
Also vital to the rescue was the diving equipment provided by Cathal Mullane and another unnamed man from the village of Cappamore, Co. Limerick.
They responded to the worldwide call issued by the rescue team for last generation oxygen tank regulators. Per the Limerick Leader, Mullane organized for the specialist equipment to be delivered to Warny so he could bring it to the cave with him.
“The two tested three DST regulators with A-clamp fittings, two universal weight pouches and a sidemount buoyancy compensator. These were used by Jim when he was part of the team saving the 12 boys and their coach.”
In an official statement, Limerick TD Tom Neville praised the local men who made such a difference in the rescue efforts 6,000 miles away:
“I’d like to commend all who are involved in the rescue of school boys trapped in a cave in Thailand.
“It is with pride that I congratulate those involved from Cappamore and Ennis for their gallant reaction and selfless actions in getting equipment and using their knowledge and skills in aiding the rescue.
“Again we see people such as these who are called upon in a time of great need rising to the challenge and I very much thank them for what they have done and recognise them as well for their heroic deeds
Thai cave rescue operation ends with all 12 boys safe.....— Beena Kher 🇮🇳 (@binakher) July 10, 2018
See the sort of risks the British divers are taking to reach the Thai children. You can imagine how dangerous it is for the kids to come out through the same route.@HHCTSurat #ThailandCaveRescue#ThaiCaveRescue pic.twitter.com/5pOnPfPM1u
“To think that a small village in County Limerick such as Cappamore has done its bit in a worldwide rescue operation that has been top of the news agenda on every channel globally just shows no matter how far away, we can always make a difference.”