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

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.

Thai cave rescue

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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)

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

Fish and Loaves Humane Society volunteers Bobby Burns, left, and John Enns, right, receive Volunteer Recognition Awards from acting mayor Duncan McMaster during the free food hand out at the Tofino Legion on Feb.24. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino Fish and Loaves volunteers Enns and Burns cheered for community service

“He’s a very conscientious and hard-working, giving volunteer.”

Ucluelet CAO Mark Boysen has resigned his position and is heading south-Island. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet CAO Mark Boysen resigns

Mayor Mayco Noel says he and his council “completely caught off guard”

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March. 6. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino councillor candidates identify differences

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new municipal councillors on March 6.

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Tofino Resort and Marina has temporarily shut down after several staff members tested positive for COVID-19. (Nora O’Malley photo)
COVID-19 confirmed at Tofino Resort and Marina

Resort apologizes to Hesquiaht First Nation for Valentine’s Day boating incident.

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Graffiti trouble? Duncan will give you the brush and the paint to remove it

Initiative based on a successful project to protect Port Alberni from unwanted spray paint

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

This was the scene outside North Saanich’s Parkland Secondary School after an attempted but unsuccessful break-and-enter into the school torched an ATM inside of it. Sidney/North Saanich RCMP did not make any arrests and currently lack suspects as the investigation continues. Members of the public who may have witnessed something or possess other information can contact police at (250) 656-3931 or to Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS. (Submitted)
Money to burn: burglars torch North Saanich high school ATM

Police dogs searched the exterior and interior of the school after early morning break-and-enter

The first of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s long-range maritime patrol aircraft—the Dash-8—becomes operational. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s new De Havilland Dash-8-100 long-range surveillance air craft is capable of staying aloft for eight to 10 hours for a variety of missions up and down the B.C. coast. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
New plane will double DFO’s surveillance capacity in B.C.

The Dash-8 will fly out of Campbell River for enforcement, conservation missions

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

Most Read