Meet the “A-team” helping the Thai military craft a plan to save boys in cave

LONDON — Their flashlights broke nine days of darkness — and their distinct British accents broke the silence. John Volanthen and his partner Rick Stanton were the first to reach the 12 boys trapped in a cave in Thailand.

Out of their wetsuits, Volanthen is an IT consultant and Stanton is a retired firefighter. But both are known around the world for their self-taught hobby. 

They’re considered among the best cave divers on the planet, nicknamed the “A-team.” It’s a skill Volanthen once compared to space travel.

British cave-divers John Volanthen removes his diving suit after walking out from Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

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“When people landed on the moon, they had a map. They knew where they were going. But in a cave, if you’re beyond the known limit of the cave, nobody knows where it goes. You never know what will happen ’round the corner,” he said.

Together they’ve designed their own equipment and used it to assist rescues in France and even Mexico, where Stanton helped save six divers trapped in a cave by teaching some how to dive. It’s an achievement later honored by the queen.

When the soccer team first went missing, Thai officials called on the “A-team” to assist in the search.

“John and Rick — they’re calm, they’re very collected, they’re very organized, extremely disciplined, and consummate professionals,” said Martyn Farr, a friend of the two divers.

It took the men 90 minutes of swimming and crawling to finally reach the boys they set out for, but their mission is far from over. The kids’ health will be critical as the two now help the Thai military develop an extraction plan.

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