Australian doctors and divers involved in the remarkable Thai cave rescue will be awarded honours in the near future, according to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Retired Perth vet Craig Challen and Adelaide anaesthetist Dr Richard Harris were called in by authorities to help with the rescue of 12 school boys and their soccer coach, trapped for up to 18 days in a complex cave system in northern Thailand.
Mr Turnbull lauded their efforts and foreshadowed formal recognition for the pair is being considered.
“That is one of the most extraordinary acts of heroism, professionalism, discipline, teamwork,” Mr Turnbull told Melbourne radio station 3AW.
“That was an example to all of us. A team brought from all over the world, showing what people of goodwill and discipline and courage can do when they work together.”
Mr Turnbull had extra praise for Dr Harris, who had the role of giving the medical all-clear for each evacuation and administering anaesthesia to the boys.
He was the last person out of the cave.
“He is one of the greatest examples of every Australian value we hold dear,” Mr Turnbull said.
The Australian divers were given diplomatic immunity ahead of the risky mission, in case anything went wrong during the rescue.
The boys, aged between 11 and 16, remain in hospital after their ordeal and have paid tribute to the Thai Navy SEAL, Saman Gunan, who died during the operation.
Dr Challen and Dr Harris were planning to head off on a trip across the Nullarbor when they got the call from Thai authorities.
Just hours after the rescue mission was completed, news came through that Dr Harris’s father had died while he was inside the cave.