It was his rare combination of talents that led Australian doctor Richard Harris deep into the Tham Luang cave in Thailand.
When the Wild Boars soccer team was found deep inside the cave, after being missing for a week, the Adelaide anaesthetist abandoned his holiday in Thailand and volunteered to help.
He went in to assess the boys’ health and stayed with them for three days. It was under his direction that the weakest boys were first led out.
Dr. Harris, known as Harry, is believed to have been one of the last rescuers out of the cave. His relief and celebration were suddenly cut short by personal tragedy – on Wednesday it emerged that Harris’s father had died shortly after the rescue’s finish.
His employer said his family’s grief was “magnified” by the physical and emotional demands of the rescue operation.
“It has been a tumultuous week with highs and lows,” Dr Andrew Pearce from MedSTAR in South Wales said. “Harry is a quiet and kind man who did not think twice about offering his support on this mission.”
Dr. Harris was specifically identified by British divers and requested by the “highest levels” of the Thai government to join the rescue, according to the Australian government.
“He was an integral part of the rescue attempt,” Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said.
“[The Australians] have been a big help, especially the doctor,” the leader of the rescue mission, acting Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osotanakorn said on Wednesday.
“Very good. The very best,” he said in reference to Dr. Harris.
His friend Sue Crowe told the BBC the doctor was an unassuming and selfless family man, whose calm presence would have comforted the boys in the cave.
“He is brilliant with children, and he would have made sure that they were prepared in the best possible way from a cave-diving perspective,” she said. “He would have been the perfect person to support them.
Ms. Bishop added that her friend is “internationally renowned” for his cave rescue expertise.
The experienced diver is also an underwater photographer.
Dr. Harris was part of a team of 20 Australians, including police and navy divers, who assisted in the complex and dangerous rescue operation.
Source: BBC News
Photo: © RICHARD HARRIS/FACEBOOK