A British caver hailed a hero for helping to save the lives of 12 boys and their football coach trapped deep inside a Thai cave has said he may take action against Elon Musk after the billionaire entrepreneur called him a “pedo” online.
The Tesla CEO lashed out on Sunday evening at Vernon Unsworth, 63, in an extraordinary tirade on Twitter after the cave diver scoffed at Mr Musk’s offer of a specialised miniature submarine to evacuate the boys through a twisted and dangerously flooded underground passageway.
Mr Unsworth, who has mapped the Tham Luang cave network for years and who played a pivotal role in the daring rescue operation to dive the boys to safety dismissed the submarine idea as a “PR stunt” in an interview with CNN, quipping that the entrepreneur could stick the invention “where it hurts.”
The Briton said that the six-foot submarine “wouldn’t have made the first 50 metres in the cave” as it was rigid and would not have gone round any corners or obstacles in the difficult terrain.
His comments were not well-received by Mr Musk, who had travelled to Thailand last week at the height of the crisis to present his submarine to the rescue teams.
In a stream of bizarre tweets Mr Musk first told his 22 million-strong Twitter following that he “never saw this British expat guy who lives in Thailand (sus) at any point when we were in the caves.”
By “sus” Mr Musk was presumed to have meant “suspect”, implying that a British man living in Thailand is in itself dubious.
He went on to dispute Mr Unsworth’s claim that the submarine concept was unworkable, arguing that he would produce a video to prove that the device would have reached the children.
“Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it,” he said, without directly naming Mr Unsworth or providing any justification or explanation for the slur.
Doubling down on his comments as criticisms rolled in, he said: “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.” The tweets have since been deleted and Musk has not responded to media requests for comment.
Mr Unsworth told AFP on Monday he had not reviewed the tweets in full and had only heard about them.
Asked if he would take legal action against the billionaire over the allegation, he said: “If it’s what I think it is yes.”
The caver added that he would make a decision when he flies back to the UK this week, but said the episode with Musk “ain’t finished”.
Mr Unsworth who lives close to the caves, in the city of Chiang Rai with his wife, was instrumental in forming the elite team of international divers who spearheaded a mission by the Thai Navy Seals to rescue the ‘Wild Boars’ football team who were sheltering in a dark cavern 2.5 miles inside the cave.
When he realised the scale of the problem facing Thai rescue teams, Mr Unsworth immediately called on British world-class divers John Volanthen, Rick Stanton and Robert Harper, who were the first to discover the emaciated boys ten days after they had gone missing.
The Brits were joined by specialists from Belgium, Scandinavia and Australia, including Dr Richard Harris, an anaesthetist tasked with assessing whether the boys were medically capable of making the life-threatening dive.
The perilous mission was considered to be a last resort as looming monsoon rains threatened to flood the cave even further. Some divers have since admitted that they did not expect all of the boys, aged 11-16, to survive.
It has now emerged that Dr Harris and Craig Challen, a retired vet and his diving buddy, were given diplomatic immunity ahead of the risky operation “in case something went wrong” , after negotiations between Australian and Thai government officials.
“Doctor Richard Harris did his utmost on the medical mission he was responsible for, but if something went wrong he needed protection,” Don Pramudwinai, the Thai Foreign Minister, said.
“We provided this only to Dr. Richard Harris and two medical assistants. Only to the Australian medical team.”
All 12 boys and their coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, 25, beat the odds and survived. They are now recovering in hospital and are expected to be released on Thursday.
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