A British diver who helped save a group of Thai teenagers trapped in a cave announced Monday he is suing Elon Musk. The diver, Vernon Unsworth, has alleged the billionaire entrepreneur falsely accused him of pedophilia. Unsworth filed the suit in a Los Angeles court, and is demanding $75,000 in compensation.
“Mr. Unsworth brings this action to hold Musk legally accountable for his wrongdoing and to vindicate his reputation,” the filing read, according to NBC News.
In July, Musk labeled Unsworth a “pedo” on Twitter, after the diver criticized the entrepreneur’s proposal to use a small submarine to rescue a group of Thai soccer players trapped in a cave. Musk argued the submarine could be used to navigate the confines of the cave system, and ferry the trapped teenagers to safety.
Just returned from Cave 3. Mini-sub is ready if needed. It is made of rocket parts & named Wild Boar after kids’ soccer team. Leaving here in case it may be useful in the future. Thailand is so beautiful. pic.twitter.com/EHNh8ydaTT— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 9, 2018
At the time, Unsworth told Musk he could “stick his submarine where it hurts.”
“[It’s] P.R. stunt [that] had absolutely no chance of working,” Unsworth said of the proposal during an interview with CNN.
Musk later responded with a series of now-deleted tweets, where he challenged Unsworth to release footage of the rescue.
“You know what, don’t bother showing the video,” Musk stated.
“We will make one of the mini-sub/pod going all the way to Cave 5 no problemo. Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.”
Ultimately, rescuers opted not to use Musk’s submarine, though the dispute between him and Unsworth didn’t end there. Earlier this month, Musk allegedly sent an email to a journalist at BuzzFeed News, describing Unsworth as “an old, single white guy from England” who moved to Thailand “for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time.”
“I suggest that you call people you know in Thailand, find out what’s actually going on and stop defending child rapists,” Musk wrote.
Unsworth has denied the allegation, which his lawyer, L. Lin Wood, described as a “vindictive and vicious lie.”
“After deleting the initial accusation and tweeting an apology, Mr Musk has continued to republish his false and unsupportable accusation,” he said in a statement.
“His conduct demonstrates that his recklessness is intentional and designed to harm Mr. Unsworth.”
Unsworth himself is a financial broker and diving enthusiast. According to the Sun, he shares a home in Chiang Rai, Thailand with his partner Woranan Ratrawiphukkun. She is the 40-year-old proprietor of a nail salon. Other rescue workers have stated Unsworth played an important role in saving the teenagers.
“He was pivotal to the entire operation,” British diver Rick Stanton said, according to the BBC.
Unsworth worked alongside Thai authorities to study the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex near Pong Pha, Thailand. In July, 12 members of a Thai junior soccer team and their assistant coach were rescued from the cave, after becoming trapped by monsoon flooding. One Thai diver died in the rescue.