Cave rescuer plays down bravery as he collects award from Queen

A cave diver who took part in the daring mission to save 12 boys and their football coach who were trapped underground in Thailand has said that none of the rescue team considers themselves as brave.

IT consultant Christopher Jewell, 37, of Cheddar, Somerset, was speaking after collecting the Queen’s Gallantry Medal at Buckingham Palace.

His award was presented by the Queen.

Mr Jewell described last summer’s rescue as a “huge step up in difficulty, complexity and risk” and that he was “very honoured” the team’s work had been recognised.

He said: “We are matter-of-fact people.

“We are down to earth people and we have this hobby and passion for cave diving.

“The skills that we learned in doing that sport allowed us to help those children – and in that sense we do not consider ourselves brave.”

The football group had become stranded deep underground for 17 days.

The rescue became a race against time ahead of impending monsoon rains.

A Thai navy seal during the mission to try and save the group.

British diving experts carried out reconnaissance dives upstream through flooded passages against strong currents and in poor visibility to locate the team marooned on a ledge above the water about 2.5 miles inside the complex.

Mr Jewell was one of the divers who carried the children out of the cave in a careful extraction process that took three days.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Christopher Jewell holding The Queen’s Gallantry Medal (Jonathan Brady/PA)

He took three boys out but also managed drop his grip on the vital guideline which was used to follow the route out to safety and the surface.

He recalled: “I am the one who inadvertently lost the line and had a near miss.

“I ended up following an electrical cable that was also in the water and that led me back to safety.

“I guess it underlines the risks, when accidents, mistakes or complacency can lead to mistakes that could have been fatal.”

He responded to that situation by trying to stay calm and follow procedures.

He said: “The most important thing was to stay calm and find a solution to the problem.”

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