To say we are a little proud of the local community of cave, technical divers and rescue services here on Koh Tao after their recent superhuman efforts is just possibly the BIGGEST understatement ever made.
Koh Tao was proud and honoured to provide a stream of experts, equipment, and skills in two major international incidents here in Thailand over the last weeks.
Expat Co-Ordinator for Koh Tao Rescue the islands, voluntary emergency services agency Chris Pearson, helped to co-ordinate teams and equipment for both missions and described the needs as wide ranging, from Medical equipment to specialised diving skills, and there where specific individuals and Dive Operators who where instrumental in providing this support, and some became members of the official rescue teams.
The tight knit community here on Koh Tao means that we all know or are connected closely to at least one of these hero’s and whilst they where away from our tropical island paradise, in a true a reflection of the caring and supportive community that is Koh Tao, there was an outpouring of support on all levels. From messages of love and support from Dive shops, agencies, individuals and businesses, to offers and supplies of specialist equipment, expertise and people with appropriate skills sets.
We all held our breath… probably a little before the rest of the world because our understanding of the environments they where diving and the skills sets it required meant we truly knew the difficulties they where facing… we watched as people the media discussed possible solutions knowing that the challenges where far greater than anticipated as small bits of news leaked out to us from our friends…we worried for our boys as the risk level increased and when Saman Kuman lost his life during the preparations to evacuate the boys we wondered if it could be done...and perhaps with an even keener sense of relief we breathed out, with the rest f the world, knowing that all where safe and clear ….and or hearts swelled knowing what they had achieved. It was the same with the technical divers stationed on Phuket with a far less lauded job who all mustered their inner strength, girded themselves and got on with the job at hand summoning all their technical skills and abilities to assist the recovery efforts, stealing their nerves for the emotional ordeal that was theirs.
The danger and skill levels required for both missions are some that are possessed by only a handful of experts through out the world, as seen by the international response to the trapped team of 12 Thai Boys in Caves to the north of Thailand, and the team of largely Koh Tao based Technical Divers who responded to the incident on Phuket which unfortunately resulted in many fatalities. It cannot be understated the required levels of Knowledge and skill and sheer strength of character to continue in the most challenging conditions and the bravery required to continue no matter what. The danger that all of these brave souls faced is underscored by the tragic loss of a Navy Seals life during the Chang Rai Rescue. This brings home to me once again how proud I am to be part of a community which nurtures and supports theses individuals and provide this level of training and safety expertise in a small little corner of the world.
The real concern back on Koh Tao should perhaps have been what is happening to our safety infrastructure as we are a small island with limited resources, but fortunately there is a high standard of care provided by our emergency services and the community has rallied together to raise funds to support it over the previous years so the relative safety of Koh Tao was only served to be enhanced and appreciated by those of us that remained on island. And now that all are …almost returned home and we reflect I for one remain thankful that we live in one of the safest most picturesque parts of the world, with world-class rescue and safety teams. Of course like anywhere in the world accidents happen but with a safety record as good as we have and the standard and professionalism of emergency response units both for diving related incidents and land based rescues is superb. I am glad to be able to stand clear and proud and to have Koh Tao to be recognised for what it truly is to most of us call our home - a beautiful, safe place to be.