One of the divers who helped save 12 schoolboys and their football coach from a flooded cave in Thailand has played down his heroics as he returned to Britain.
There have been calls for John Volanthen and Rick Stanton to be honoured after they were the first divers to reach the stranded group in the Tham Luang cave complex.
After landing at Heathrow on Thursday, Volanthen spoke of the relief he had felt at making contact with the boys.
“We were very pleased and we were very relieved that they were all alive, but I think at that point we realised the enormity of the situation and that’s perhaps why it took a while to get them all out,” he told Sky News.
“We are not heroes. What we do is very calculating, very calm. It’s quite the opposite.”
Volanthen paid tribute to the Thai navy diver Saman Kunan, who died while replenishing oxygen canisters, saying his death brought a “bittersweet” taste to an otherwise “excellent” operation.
Volanthen, an IT consultant in his 40s who is based in Bristol, and Stanton, a firefighter from Coventry who is in his 50s, reached the group nine days after they went missing.
The final four boys and their 25-year-old coach were brought to safety on Tuesday, 18 days after they entered the cave.
The rescue was particularly treacherous because the boys, aged 11 to 16, had to swim through tight spaces despite having no previous diving experience.
This story originally appeared in The Guardian.