Erik Brown and other expert divers and people involved in the Thai cave rescue paused for a photo. (Erik Brown Facebook page)

B.C. diver at Thai cave rescue won’t speculate on which actor should play him in movie

Eric Brown said most rescue dives he’s been involved with were to recovery bodies.

Who would Eric Brown like to play him in the movie?

The Langley-raised man who gained international attention as one of the divers who took part in the Thai cave rescue of a teen soccer team and their coach laughs at the question

“I don’t think I’ll have a character. I think I’ll be support worker number four,” he chuckled.

Brown has been contacted by one producer already and knows of about five companies with projects in the works to retell the incredible tale.

“They don’t really have to embellish,” he told the Langley Advance. “If they stick to what happened, they don’t have to Hollywoodize it.”

Brown was in Langley visiting family for the B.C. Day long weekend before jetting off for an interview in Montreal. He sat down with his hometown newspaper to talk about the rescue and the swirl of national and international media attention during and since the rescue.

The Advance found out Brown’s hometown connections through a Tweet from someone local who recognized that the 36-year-old had graduated from D.W. Poppy Secondary.

[Story continues below video]

When Brown learned about the soccer team trapped in the cave, he contacted a friend who was at the rescue and offered help.

He’s one of about half a dozen international divers in the area trained in deep water and cave rescue, and was invited to the scene.

The mission began June 23 when the boys didn’t return home. On June 24, rescue teams found the bags and sandals of the boys deep within the caves that started flooding.

On June 25, officials start pumping water out of the caves but had still not reached the boys.

The teen boys and their coach were trapped for days underground before the first rescuers got to them on July 2. The next day Thai Navy SEALs took food, fresh water and blankets to the boys and provided the first photos to their families and the world.

Starting Sunday, July 8, 18 divers entered the caves and 11 hours later emerged with the first of four boys. Four more were extracted Monday, July 9, with the rest safely brought out Tuesday, July 10. The world watched the rescue unfold over several days.

Divers first strung ropes through the caves to help those underwater navigate in the near zero visibility through the miles-long cave system that took hours to get through. Then crews started ferrying items in and out of the cave system. Brown explained, for example, that in addition to the two tanks he needed for himself, he would take in four to six air tanks strapped to his lower body.

“We had seen dry maps of the cave,” Brown explained. “A lot of people were pretty confident, who had been inside, the way that the contour was that [the team] could find a spot that would sustain them for enough time. How much time that really was, I’m not sure. I think it was definitely pushing it eight, nine, 10 days.”

Three pumps were trying to lower the water level in the cave system that has been flooded by a monsoon.

When the time came to start bringing out the boys, divers were stationed along the route. Brown was positioned couple hours into the cave. There were tank changes and figures moving past him in near zero visibility, a slow and time-consuming operation.

“So you’re not really sure how successful it is to be honest, you know. It was successful up to me but they still had two hours to get [out] to where the U.S. and Thai medical teams were.”

The divers along the cave system couldn’t get updates while underwater.

“That’s the hardest part,” he said. “You’ve got to wait another three hours, swim yourself back out then pop your head up.”

Those on the surface would hold up the number of fingers to show divers how many kids were out safely.

Though not a religious man, Brown said someone was watching out for those boys.

“There’s something out there. There has to be after something like this,” he commented.

Brown is not surprised that the soccer team coach, a former monk, has returned to his faith and the boys went into a Buddhist monastery after getting out of hospital to become novice monks.

Rescue diving is not new for Brown.

He is part of a group of divers trained in deep diving and more extreme situations such as cave rescue.

In the approximately half a dozen times he’s been called upon to help in such situations, it’s typically not a fairy-tale ending.

“Ninety per cent of the stuff that I go out on unfortunately on these occasions is [body recovery],” Brown said.

World traveller

Brown owns Hydronauts Dive Centre on a Thai island, where he provides diving for the tourist trade. Before that he was in Egypt for seven years and travelled around a lot before that.

“You work a lot harder than you think living on a tropical island,” he joked.

Diving and owning his dive business wasn’t on the radar when he was growing up in Langley.

His mom, Dorothy, worked for Air Canada for many years, and his parents would take him and his brother, Kirk, around the world, experiences that gave him a taste for water.

“All of my friends are surfers,” but a shoulder injury took him out of that scene. Brown still wanted to stay in the water and found diving.

He learned cave diving mostly in Mexico and returns there annually.

“There’s some pretty remote places that are kind of hard to get to but also come with a nice big price tag,” he said.

There are still places in the world he plans to check out. The wrecks of the Great Lakes appeal to him.

“I’m not really a fish and coral type person. I’m more of a cave and wrecks type,” Brown explained.

Next year, he’ll likely get a chance to check out cave diving in France. A French dive shop has invited all the rescuers for a free weekend so there’s talk of making it a bit of a reunion.

 

In this undated photo released by Royal Thai Navy on Saturday, July 7, 2018, Thai rescue teams arrange water pumping system at the entrance to a flooded cave complex where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand. (Royal Thai Navy via AP)

Just Posted

Broken axle caused New Hazelton train derailment: TSB

It could happen again without a different way to inspect trains

Cullen remains uncertain about political future

Says he’ll make decision in early March

Spring fishery closures mulled for south coast

Fewer fish are returning to rivers and more conservation needed, say feds

Terrace resident’s bill banning single-use plastics introduced in Ottawa

MP Nathan Cullen’s presented Ben Korving’s private member’s bill Wednesday

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

Cryptocurrency exchange CEO who suddenly died leaves Kelowna house in will

Gerald Cotten, holding the keys to money tied up in his virtual currency exchange, died in December.

Regulator’s report, coming today, unlikely to settle Trans Mountain pipeline battle

The Trans Mountain pipeline will remain a controversial topic both in the political ring and out

Most Read