On Tuesday 26 June the British Cave Rescue Council received a request from Thai authorities asking for specialist help. Less than 12 hours later Rob Harper flew out of London Heathrow with fellow cavers Rick Stanton and John Volanthen bound for Thailand.
It has now been confirmed that Rob Harper has returned to the UK for a medical appointment.
When Harper arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport to fly back to the UK, he received a VIP welcome and escort. He was warmly greeted by several Thai officials including the Minister for Tourism and Sports, Weerasak Kowsurat.
The Minister presented a Certification of Appreciation to Rob Harper on behalf of the Kingdom of Thailand.
Kind heart. Fierce mind. Brave spirit.
The certificate read "As recognition of your public service to the citizens of Thailand in providing assistance in rescuing the thirteen Thai indiviuals from the Tham Luang Cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai province.
"Your dedication to duty and professionalism reflects the highest credit upon yourself."
Experienced, respected caver
Rob Harper is an respected caver with over four decade of experience. He has explored and surveyed caves in Somerset, Panama, Peru and Thailand. In addition he is a Cave Leader for Dan Yr Ogof cave in South Wales. (A Cave Leader has a set of specialist skills in order to safety lead others underground).
Rob is cool, calm and collected, the one to have on your side in a crisis
A British caver told me that "Rob would only say he was doing what any caver would do in that situation. No drama. No fuss. Just get on with it.
Rob is cool, calm and collected, the one to have on your side in a crisis."
His work has been published in 'Descent' - the UK cave magazine - and he has voluntarily served the caving community as an officer on the Wessex Cave Club Committee.
The rescue operation as a whole is under the command of the Thai authorities.
The British Cave Rescue Council is a part of the enormous overall rescue effort and is focussed entirely on diving operations and providing specialist cave diving advice.
The emergency situation on the ground is incredibly stressful and traumatic because there is a risk of harm to children and their coach. Rescue specialists need to be able to do their job and cope with the crisis hence the British Cave Rescue Council hand picked Rob Harper, Rick Stanton and John Volanthen to fly out.
Rob has done a lot of caving in Thailand and his local knowledge will have be invaluable to Rick and John. His survey work will have assisted the search at the far end of the cave system.
Professionally Rob Harper is an emergency and critical care veterinary surgeon with extensive Oncology (Cancer) experience.
How can you help?
Charitable rescue organisations such as the British Cave Rescue Council are generally not that well funded. If you feel that you wish to make a practical difference, please consider donating something to this charity. The money will be used to support this and future cave rescues, ie purchase equipment.