9 Australians Receive Bravery Awards for Thai Cave Rescue
Australian divers who helped rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded Thai cave earlier this month have been honoured with bravery awards in Canberra, Australia.
Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove bestowed official honours to all nine Australians involved in the rescue mission at a special ceremony at Government House on July 24.
— Peter Dutton (@PeterDutton_MP) July 24, 2018
Two divers, Adelaide anaesthetist Richard Harris and retired Perth vet Craig Challen, were singled out for the Star of Courage award—the nation’s second highest bravery decoration—for “acts of conspicuous courage in circumstances of great peril.”
Harris conducted the initial medical assessments on each of the boys and their coach, and advised on extraction methods. On the day of the evacuation, he gave the medical all-clear for each rescuee and sedated them before they were taken out of the cave system by the other rescue divers, the ABC reported. He was also the last out of the cave.
Challen helped the boys after they emerged from the first flooded section of the evacuation route. He assisted with carrying them to the next section and preparing them for the next dive, reported the media outlet.
Six members from the Australian Federal Police—Robert James, Kelly Boers, Benjamin Cox, Matthew Fitzgerald, Justin Bateman, and Chris Markcrow—and Navy diver Troy Eather were awarded bravery medals.
All nine Australians were also awarded with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), an honour usually only bestowed on Australia Day and the Queen’s Birthday.
Speaking at the ceremony, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull lauded the group’s efforts amidst the trying circumstances.
“During the World Cup, the most inspiring story about football was not in Russia, it was in Thailand. And the most inspiring teams were not Les Bleus but the Wild Boars, and you,” Turnbull said.
“Your first dives were done without a proper guide rope. There was no defined path through those dark waters. You had to feel your way through the twists and turns of the cave system, with the very real threat all the time of being tangled and trapped.
“It’s impossible to overstate how dangerous was your task.
“We could not have better ambassadors showing our Australian values than you.”
The Governor-General noted Harris and Challen had tried to downplay their role by saying their efforts were not exceptional and that they were just “doing their bit.” Sir Peter, however, thought otherwise.
“We think that you were remarkable—skilful, tireless, compassionate, and courageous,” he said.
“Your nation is so proud of you. Today, Australia salutes you.”