Lessons Learnt from the Thai Cave Rescue

December 16, 2019

On 21 November 2019, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) organised the inaugural First Responders Safety & Performance Symposium (FRSPS) at the Singapore Expo Convention and Exhibition Centre. Temasek Foundation was SCDF’s strategic partner for this symposium. Concurrently, SCDF co-curated the academic programme for this symposium with its knowledge partner, the Department of Physiology, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore (NUS).



Commissioner Eric Yap (6th from the left) with distinguished delegates and professionals from around the world at the First Responders Safety & Performance Symposium (FRSPS).


Themed “A Global Community of Lifesavers”, the symposium aimed to connect first responders, researchers and industry professionals from around the world. These international and local guests shared knowledge such as application of scientific research, technological innovation and robust standards, aimed at enhancing capabilities and outcomes of safety and performance of first responders.


The symposium saw the attendance of up to 320 overseas guests, including top academic researchers, leaders of firefighting and emergency response services, elite global first responders, technology and industry leaders, voluntary and inter-governmental organisations, and other partners of first responders.



Commissioner Eric Yap giving his introductory speech for this inaugural symposium.


A sharing session on the Thai Cave Rescue was held at the symposium this year. The panellists were Mr. Narongsak Osottonakorn, Governor of the Lampang Province, Mr. Lerpong Suansung, Head of the Search & Rescue mission, and last but not least, Mr Ivan Karadzic,  Volunteer Rescue Diver. They shared their experiences of the Thai Cave Rescue Operation conducted in 2018.



Mr. Narongsak Osottonakorn giving a detailed account on the Thai Cave Rescue Operation.


The incredible story on the Thai Cave Rescue tells the tale of human suffering in the face of humanity. Nonetheless, SCDF Commissioner Eric Yap stated that it is a heart-warming story on the resilience, composure, and tenacity of humanity against all odds. The rescue operation’s success was made possible by the remarkable team of rescuers from all around the world.



From left on stage: AC Abdul Razak, Mr Ivan Karadzic, Mr Narongsak Osottonakorn, Mr Ravee (translator), Mr Lerpong Suansung.


Mr Karadzic


Commissioner Eric Yap giving a token of appreciation to Mr Ivan Karadzic.


Mr Ivan Karadzic, a Danish Diver based in Thailand, was part of the core team deployed deep in the cave ensuring the safety of the diving team and that there is sufficient equipment for divers to gain access to the trapped persons in the cave.


When asked about the risks and challenges involved in this rescue mission, Mr Karadzic commented, “From a diver’s perspective, the Tham Luang Cave is not a difficult cave to navigate in as it is a fairly shallow cave as compared to others. However, the poor physical conditions such as the near zero visibility makes it even more challenging. The most challenging aspect of the rescue operation was to guide the children who had no prior diving experience out of the cave. The cave was not challenging but the situation itself was challenging.”


Mr Karadzic said that with more preparation, more time could be saved for first responders to get to the scene with the necessary equipment, and consequently, more lives could potentially be saved.


At present, Mr Karadzic is continuing his basic medical training to render first aid assistance for future incidents.


Mr Naronsak


Commissioner Eric Yap giving a token of appreciation to Mr Narongsak Osottonakorn


Mr. Narongsak Osottonakorn, then Governor of Chiangrai Province, bore the heavy responsibility of making key decisions that led to the success of the rescue mission. He said that as the oxygen levels were depleting fast in the cave where the twelve children and their football coach were trapped, the rescue process had to be hastened to ensure that all of them were rescued.


Mr Lerpong

Mr. Lerpong Suansung, Head of the Search & Rescue mission, mentioned that in order to bring the trapped victims to safety, he and his team had to make critical decisions such as pumping the water out of the cave to prevent it from flooding and trapping the victims further. He said that the cave’s conditions were getting worse over time, and therefore, time was of the essence.



Commissioner Eric Yap giving a token of appreciation to Mr Lerpong Suansung


Speaking at the symposium, SCDF Commissioner Eric Yap called on more people, including members of the community, to learn basic life-saving skills to take on the responsibility of first response before emergency responders arrive at the scene. He stressed, "A time delay could mean a rapid deterioration of the situation, and worse, the loss of many more lives."