Thai cave rescue: British diver says he has been approached by lawyers over Elon Musk's 'pedo' comment

PHOTO: Reuters

MAE SAI, Thailand - A British caver who helped rescue 12 boys from a Thai cave said on Tuesday (July 17) that he has been approached by British and American lawyers and will seek legal advice after Tesla chief executive officer Elon Musk directed abuse at him on Twitter.

"I've been approached by British lawyers, American lawyers. I haven't decided what to do next yet," Vern Unsworth told Reuters in Mae Sai town in Chiang Rai province, about 3km from the cave where the boys and their coach were trapped for 18 days.

However, Unsworth has said he is considering legal action against the billionaire entrepreneur, who is chief executive of the electric car maker Tesla.

"I can't let it go. There's too much out there already," Unsworth told Reuters in an interview.

Asked which law firm he would hire, he said: "I don't know yet. I have to take advice."

Unsworth declined to identify who had approached him.

Tesla spokesmen did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Musk could not be reached for comment.

Musk's spat with Unsworth started last week, after rescue teams rejected Musk's offer of a mini-submarine created by his rocket company SpaceX to help extract the youth football team and the coach from the labyrinth of partly flooded passages.

"It just has absolutely no chance of working," CNN quoted Unsworth as saying about the submarine.

Musk responded on Twitter on Sunday saying: "We will make one (video) of the mini-sub/pod going all the way to Cave 5 no problem. Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it."

The Tweet was later deleted.

Unsworth said he hadn't flatly denied Musk's accusation because he was waiting for legal advice.

Asked why he thought Musk would make such a comment about him, he said: "I don't know."

A police officer in the Chiang Rai, where Unsworth has lived for seven years, said that no charges or complaints had ever been filed against Unsworth. The officer declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

FAMILY UPSET

Unsworth, 63, said he hadn't actually met Musk face to face when Musk visited the cave during the rescue.

He said he felt sorry that the squabble with Musk had detracted from the successful end to the rescue mission.

"It's taken a bit of the pleasure out of what's happened, what we've achieved, for me anyway," he said, adding that it had upset his ex-wife and daughter back in Britain.

"It's very much upset my daughter," the caver said, his voice breaking.

Shares of Tesla fell more than 3.5 per cent on Monday, knocking almost US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion) off the company's market value.

Several analysts and investors, requesting anonymity, told Reuters that Musk's comments were adding to their concerns that his public statements were distracting him from Tesla's main business of producing electric cars.

The "Wild Boar" team were rescued last week by a group of foreign and Thai divers through a network of narrow passages and chambers. The boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach are expected to leave hospital on Wednesday.

Thai cave rescue: How each boy is extracted in complex process

  • The 10-km long Tham Luang cave, which has been described as a labyrinth, sits near the Thai border with Myanmar.
  • Rescue divers began operations on Sunday (July 8) to extract the 12 boys and their football coach from the massive Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
  • Here's how the 12 boys might dive and walk out of the complex cave network. (Graphic Not drawn to scale)
  • The boys are located more than 4km from the mouth of the cave. Most of the boys don't know how to swim.
  • According to experts, divers required three hours to reach the boys from the mouth of the cave, Reuters reported. The boys' ordeal is expected to last 3 or more hours.
  • This undated handout photo taken recently and released by the Royal Thai Navy on July 7, 2018 shows a Thai Navy diver in the cave during rescue operations.
  • The boys will have to first dive for 400m before reaching Pattaya Beach, a chamber more than 4km from the cave's entrance. Then, they have to dive for another 130m before walking and climbing along a 400m-long dry area.
  • The first, nearly 1km-long section from where the boys have been huddling in darkness is believed to be the most difficult, requiring a long dive and crawling through mud and debris, with some crevices barely wide enough for a person.
  • The 5-km escape route cuts through dark, flooded and narrow passageways, as this still from a video circulating online shows.
  • How each boy will be tethered to the 2 adult rescue divers. Once past the first stretch, the boys' escape route forks east at a T-junction, and they must scrabble over some diverse terrain including giant boulders, sand and slippery rocks with sudden cliff-like drops and further submerged passageways.
  • The biggest crisis spot is a 38-cm-wide crevice close to the T-junction, known as Sam Yaek Junction.
  • The biggest crisis spot is a 38-cm-wide crevice close to the T-junction, known as Sam Yaek Junction.
  • "The hole is really small, I have to take off my air tank to crawl through it," a 25-year-old Thai Navy Seal told Reuters before the rescue attempt. "As I do, I feel the edges of the hole on both my back and chest."
  • Rescue divers will have to remove their scuba tanks and roll them along while guiding the boys through. After that though, the tunnels widen, the waters subside, and walking is even possible.
  • There are several 'choke points' in the complex cave network. After the dreaded T-junction, the rest of the journey is expected to be relatively safe as they will have reached a forward operating base inside the cave.
  • Ambulances wait at the mouth of the cave to whisk the boys away to hospital when they emerge.
  • Divers resuming the rescue mission on Monday (July 9).
  • Police and military personnel use umbrellas to cover around a stretcher near a helicopter and an ambulance at a military airport in Chiang Rai on July 9, 2018.
  • Rescuers venturing into the cave in a photo released on July 7 by the Thai Royal Navy.
  • The high-risk operation at the Tham Luang caves paused overnight on Sunday (July 8) as rescuers recovered and oxygen tanks were replenished along the route.
  • Torchlight only affords visibility up to three feet in the murky waters.
  • A nearby hospital ready to receive the boys after they are rescued.

Unsworth was the first foreigner called to the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand after relatives noticed the boys had not come out after setting out to explore the cave complex on June 23 following football practice.

He said he has lost count of how many times he has been inside the 10-km (6-mile) long Tham Luang cave.

"It has been my third home for the past six years," he said.

Two British divers who were asked by Unsworth to join the mission were the first to discover the boys.

Unsworth said he brought his knowledge about the cave to the rescue mission but added that he "no idea" what the diving conditions were like because he is not a cave diver.

He said he will fly from Thailand to London on Thursday, where he will stay for around three weeks.

ALSO READ: Elon Musk says he's in Thailand with mini-sub for cave rescue

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