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‘You can’t see your hands in front of your face’: Canadian diver on Thailand cave rescue

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WATCH ABOVE: Erik Brown, the Canadian man involved in this week's cave rescue in Thailand, speaks to Global News about the challenges he and his fellow rescuers endured – Jul 13, 2018

Imagine being completely enveloped in darkness, with nothing to guide you through but a line you’re pulling hand over hand to arrive at your destination.

Lose the line, and you’re lost.

WATCH: July 10: Global News speaks with the family of a B.C. man involved with the international dive team who helped rescue 12 Thai boys and their coach from a cave.
Click to play video 'Family of B.C. diver involved in Thai cave rescue share their joy' Family of B.C. diver involved in Thai cave rescue share their joy
Family of B.C. diver involved in Thai cave rescue share their joy – Jul 10, 2018

That’s how Erik Brown summed up his experience helping to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from the flooded Tham Luang cave in Thailand’s Chiang Rai region.

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The diver, who was raised in Langley, B.C., told Global News about the role he played in the unprecedented rescue effort in Thailand.

WATCH: Thai boys in hospital thank rescuers for help, world for support

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Thai boys in hospital thank rescuers for help, world for support – Jul 14, 2018

The divers, foreign and Thai, navigated the 4-kilometre long stretch using an elaborate rope-and-pulley system installed to pull the boys and their coach from the cave.

READ MORE: ‘9 days, 7 missions and 63 hours inside’ — B.C. diver part of daring Thai cave rescue

Brown, and a friend, arrived the day the boys were found huddled with their soccer coach inside the cave.

His job involved supporting the efforts of Thai Navy SEALs and a team from the U.K.

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WATCH: Thailand health minister says boys soccer team expected to be released from hospital on Thursday

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Thailand health minister says boys soccer team expected to be released from hospital on Thursday – Jul 14, 2018

He assisted in laying tanks and lines inside the cave’s narrow chambers, in an effort to expedite the rescue, he told Global News.

“The job changed sort of daily,” he said.

WATCH: Thailand rescue diver has B.C. connection

Click to play video 'Thailand rescue diver has B.C. connection' Thailand rescue diver has B.C. connection
Thailand rescue diver has B.C. connection – Jul 10, 2018

Brown called the rescue a mission in which “every single challenge you can throw at a diver was there.”

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“We had low visibility, long hikes in, super narrow channels, no communications,” he said.

READ MORE: Thai boys wave, give peace signs from hospital beds in 1st video since cave rescue

The cave was so dark that “you can’t see your hands in front of your face,” he added.

Brown had been diving for over a decade, but even all his training didn’t prepare him for an experience like this.

“I’ll never have a dive like this again, that’s for sure,” he said.

With darkness and a strong current in the water, he called it one of the “most challenging dives I’ve done for sure.”
Coverage of the Thailand cave rescue on Globalnews.ca:


In total, he spent nine days on the mission, including 63 hours inside the cave itself.
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But how did he keep calm while he was in there?

Brown said you have to “turn your brain off a little bit.”

“You have to focus on the minor task you have, try to put the sort of grand scale off to the side a little bit,” he said.

Stories have characterized Brown as a hero for his role in the mission. But he’s quick to eschew the label.

“There’s plenty more people who deserve that label than me,” Brown said.

“I just tried to do the best I can with my skill set.”