Family proud of B.C. man who helped rescue boys from Thailand cave

VANCOUVER — A British Columbia-born diver who braved perilous conditions to help save 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand is the kind of man who always helps others, says his older brother.

Erik Brown grew up in Langley and owns a diving company in Thailand. His brother says when the 35-year-old saw that the boys were trapped, he didn’t hesitate to join the rescue team.

“That’s just who he is. He didn’t have to tell me why. I know the man pretty well,” said Kirk Brown, 39. “I’m not at all surprised he was involved to the degree he was and was able to help.”

Erik posted a photo of himself earlier this week with other divers on Facebook with the caption, “9 days. 7 missions and 63 hours inside Tham Laung Cave. Success.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked the B.C. man for his participation in the rescue in a post on Twitter.

“The Thai cave rescue was a team effort, and I’d like to congratulate and thank Langley’s Erik Brown for stepping up to help get the job done — you’ve made Canadians proud,” Trudeau wrote.

The boys, ages 11 to 16, and their coach entered the cave after practice on June 23, but monsoon rains soon blocked their escape. The complex mission, by international and Thai divers, to pull the team from the flooded passageways captivated people across the globe.

Kirk travelled from Calgary to be with his mother Dorothy in Langley during the rescue. He said they were glued to their televisions and phones, waiting for word that Erik had returned safely from a mission inside the cave.

His brother would go into the cave for hours at a time, sometimes for up to six hours, said Kirk, adding that whenever Erik had a free moment he would let his family know he was OK.

Although Kirk and his mom were naturally nervous, they had faith in Erik’s abilities.

“He’s very proud of what he does,” he said. “It’s about planning and patience and staying calm. You have contingency plans.

“He speaks very highly of everybody who was there in the planning process and execution.”

When news broke on Friday that an experienced diver had died during the rescue, that brought a “level of realism” to the situation and reminded the family of the risks of the operation, said Kirk.

He recalled his brother telling him that the team refused to let the man’s death be in vain.

“They pushed through and continued to do the work and in the end it saved 12 boys. Now they can honour that man’s passing by doing that,” said Kirk.

Erik began diving about a decade ago and it has taken him all over the world, his brother said. He lived in Egypt for six years before moving to Thailand about two years ago.

His 36th birthday is on Friday, but his brother laughed and said that Erik will probably sleep through a good chunk of the special day.

His brother is happy and relieved the boys are safe, but he’s also very, very tired, Kirk noted, adding Erik is a humble guy who is proud of everyone on the team.

The absolute best moment for Erik, his brother said, was seeing the boys reunited with their families in hospital.

“It was a relief. I know he said the biggest thing … was being able to see the families and the boys after he was out and knowing it was done.

“There was still an awareness of the Thai navy SEAL diver who died. It was celebration but it wasn’t without loss.”

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