British ‘Real Hero’ Diver Gets Official Escort to Airport

BANGKOK — One of the British caving experts who helped discover the 13 missing in a Chiang Rai cave quietly left Thailand Wednesday night with the tourism minister personally thanking him at the airport.

Robert Charles Harper of the British Cave Rescue Council was accompanied to Suvarnabhumi Airport by Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat. A dinner of tom yum goong was given to Harper before he boarded a Thai Airways flight to London’s Heathrow Airport and the authorities paid a for a new pair of shoes purchased by Harper to replaced the torn one.

Harper oversaw the three-man team that Monday night discovered the 13 trapped inside a chamber several kilometers inside the Luang cave, where they had been trapped 10 days.

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The certificate of appreciation handed by Weerasak at the airport stated that it was given for Harper’s “public service to the citizens of Thailand in providing assistance in rescuing the thirteen Thai individuals from the Tham Luang Cave… Your dedication to duty and professionalism reflects the highest credit upon yourself.”

The certificate was signed by Weerasak.

“Thank you so much for your service,” Weerasak told Harper as he greeted him at the airport. A group of men were seen holding a placard: “Thank you for your help” as Harper walked through the airport. A black jacket was given to Harper and Weerasak called him a “real hero” before the certificate was handed.

Harper, who is 70, left ahead of his two colleagues for a health checkup. The other two divers, John Volanthen and Richard William Stanton, are still in Chiang Rai assisting with the ongoing rescue mission. Weerasak said Harper plans to return to Chiang Rai as a tourist for the next Songkran festival in April.