Dr. Richard Harris Abandoned Vacation Plans To Assist Thai Cave Rescue Efforts

Linh Pham / Getty Images

Dr. Richard Harris was on vacation in Thailand when he was recruited to assist in the attempts to rescue the Wild Boars soccer team who were trapped in the cave for a little over 10 days.

According to BBC News, Dr. Richard Harris, known to his friends as Harry, stayed with the boys for three days in the cave and assisted in planning their rescue. It was through Harris’ assessment that the weakest of the boys trapped were to be let out first followed by the rest.

Risking his own life, Harris made the trip into the subterranean cavern on Sunday, July 8 to check on the boys. He is believed to have been one of the last rescuers out of the cave.

Harris is known across the world for his cave rescue expertise. The doctor, who works for the South Australian Ambulance Service’s aeromedical evacuation service MedStar, joined the efforts for the rescue mission after being identified by British divers and “the very highest levels” of the Thai government.

Harris is an experienced diver and also an underwater photographer, and has completed several cave-diving expeditions in Australia, New Zealand, Christmas Island, and China.

In 2011, Harris experienced tragedy when one of his caving diving missions involved the retrieval of the body of one of his friends, Agnes Milowka, who ran out of air during a cave dive in South Australia.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop stated that the doctor was known for his work on medical assistance teams and their work during natural disasters in the Pacific region.

“[He] is an extraordinary Australian and he has certainly made a big difference to the rescue effort here in Thailand,” she commented. “He was an integral part of the rescue attempt.”

  Linh Pham / Getty Images

Harris is known by many of his friends as a family man. Sue Crowe, one his friends, said, “He is brilliant with children, and he would have made sure that they were prepared in the best possible way from a cave-diving perspective…He would have been the perfect person to support them.”

Harris received an outpour of gratitude on social media after his efforts and involvement in the mission. Many called for him to be named Australian of the Year, one of the country’s high civic honors. The Australian government has confirmed there will be some formal recognition.

Relief and celebration were soon cut short for the doctor. After the rescue mission, Harris received news that his father had passed away the same night he rescued the last of the boys.

Dr. Andrew Pearce from MedStar stated, “This is clearly a time of grief for the Harris family, magnified by the physical and emotional demands of being a part of this week’s highly complex and ultimately success rescue operation…He will be coming home soon and taking some well-earned time off to be with his family.”