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He explained local, and British divers who Dr Harris described as "the awesome foursome", had already laid terrific groundwork to ensure the success of the gruelling mission.

Twelve members of the Wild Boars junior soccer team and their 25-year-old coach were freed from Thailand's Tham Luang Cave earlier this week after spending two weeks trapped inside the flooded cave system.

It's an inspiring story fit for Hollywood: 12 courageous young soccer players trapped in a flooded cave for two weeks, dauntless rescuers risking life and limb to save the team, a wave of support from dozens of countries as the world watched with bated breath for the rescuers to emerge victorious with the Wild Boars safe in hand.

"The Thai authorities took a lot of steps to divert rivers on the mountain top which we believe bought us as lot of time to get this outcome", he said.

Mr Stanton and John Volanthen were the first to reach the group, which had been trapped for nine days.

He said: "Nobody thought we could do it". No, we were just using a very unique skill set, which we normally use for our own interests and sometimes we are able to use that and give something back to the community.

"Rick and John not only found the children and coach alive, but conveyed the gravity of the situation to the rest of the world and thus the rescue started in earnest", he wrote on his Facebook page on Friday, as he was flying home on an Australian air force plane with his countrymen who also worked at the cave.

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Banphot Konkum, father of Duangpetch Promthep, shows a picture of his son during an interview in Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand, Friday, July 13, 2018.

The 12 Thai schoolboys rescued from a cave this week were reportedly given a "small sedative" before they embarked on a rescue mission that continues to grab global headlines. We're just very happy that the boys are out and safe. "I was afraid that he might think I was going to blame him, so I sent a letter of comfort to him in hospital", said the abbot.

They were found 10 days later, huddled on a small, dry shelf just above the water, and divers and other global rescuers plotted the complex mission to rescue the team before more rain came.

"We were pleased and very relieved that they were alive", Volanthen said. "He's got a very good bedside manner".

"He's got a very bouncy Australian accent, and they seemed to find that quite relaxing and reassuring".

One diver, Thai navy Seal Saman Kunan, died while bringing oxygen to the children. "It's kind of bittersweet for what's otherwise been an excellent operation".