SA Ambulance Service MedSTAR director of clinical services Dr Andrew Pearce said in a statement this morning that Dr Richard “Harry” Harris’ father passed away “a short time” after the successful rescue operation.
“It is with great sadness that I confirm that Harry’s dad passed away last night a short time after the successful rescue operation in Thailand,” he said.
“This is clearly a time of grief for the Harris family, magnified by the physical and emotional demands of being part of this week’s highly complex and ultimately successful rescue operation.
“He will be coming home soon and taking some well-earned time off to be with his family.”
The anaesthetist and underwater cave explorer risked his life on Saturday to make the treacherous journey to the chamber where the team of 12 boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach had been trapped underground for 15 days.
Harris assessed the health of the boys and their coach, and determined the order in which boys needed to escape the cave.
He was the last man out of the Thai cave when the rescue operation ended last night.
Harris was described as “essential” to the rescue operation because of his unique skills and expertise, including 30 years of cave diving experience and his work as a medical retrieval specialist with South Australia’s MedSTAR service.
Pearce described his colleague as “an interesting character” who would not have hesitated for a second in answering the call for his help.
“Harry is selfless, he is extremely thoughtful. He’s a quiet person. He is the type of guy who will give of his all,” he said.
“He was actually meant to be on holiday and gave up his holiday so that he could be part of this.
“It has been a tumultuous week with highs and lows.”
Australia played a vital role in the rescue, sending 19 personnel including six military divers.
SA Ambulance Service will hold a press conference this afternoon.
It said while it was aware of the international interest in Harris’ involvement in the rescue, Harris would not be speaking to the media.
Harris has asked that the family’s privacy is respected as they deal with their loss.
– with AAP
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