Thai cave rescue: Elon Musk calls British diver ‘paedophile’ over submarine criticism

By @chelean on
Elon Musk
Founder and CEO of Tesla Motors Elon Musk speaks during a media tour of the Tesla Gigafactory. Reuters/James Glover II

Elon Musk has called the British diver who criticised his unused child submarine a “paedo guy.” Vern Unsworth had a pivotal role in the rescue of the 12 trapped Thai boys and their soccer coach in an underground cave network, but he caught the wrath of the American billionaire when he called Musk’s effort as a “PR stunt.”

Unsworth was one of the team of British divers who, along with the Thai Navy SEALs and other international divers, helped the rescue of the Wild Boars Thai soccer team who were trapped at the Tham Luang cave system with their 25-year-old soccer coach for days. According to CNN, 63-year-old Unsworth, who lives in the Chiang Rai province of Thailand, was instrumental in linking up the Thai authorities with the British experts.

Because of his intimate knowledge of the Tham Luang cave system, he helped his fellow experts navigate the complex cave network, leading Rick Stanton and John Volanthen to find the children in the cave. It was him who initially pinpointed where he thought the group would be waiting. The children were found 200 metres away from that point.

British cave divers, Rick Stanton, Chris Jewell, Connor Roe, Josh Bratchley, Jim Warny, Mike Clayton and Gary Mitchell, arrive back at Heathrow Airport, having helped in the rescue of the 12 boys in Thailand, in London, Britain, July 13, 2018. British cave divers, Rick Stanton, Chris Jewell, Connor Roe, Josh Bratchley, Jim Warny, Mike Clayton and Gary Mitchell, arrive back at Heathrow Airport, having helped in the rescue of the 12 boys in Thailand, in London, Britain, July 13, 2018.  Reuters/Henry Nicholls

When asked what he thought of Musk’s child submarine, which was ultimately not used in the operation, Unsworth did not mince words. “He can stick his submarine where it hurts,” he said. “It just had absolutely no chance of working. He had no conception of what the cave passage was like.”

He said the metal contraption was too big and rigid for the narrow passages of the cave. It would have been rendered useless in the “first 50 metres into the cave.” Musk, he said, was “asked to leave very quickly” when he visited the site.

British diver Vern Unsworth was instrumental in the rescue of the 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach. British diver Vern Unsworth was instrumental in the rescue of the 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach.  CNN

Musk, who has been on full defence mode when media outlets began calling his submarine as impractical, was quick to reply to Unsworth’s remarks. In a series of tweets, Musk claimed he never saw the British expat guy at the caves, calling Unsworth “sus” (suspicious). He also said that contrary to what Unsworth said, the Thai Navy SEALs were “great” and even escorted them in, “totally opposite of wanting us to leave.”

Musk refuted what the experts had said about the cave, that the water level was basically not as dangerous as they were saying. “Water level was actually very low & still (not flowing) — you could literally have swum to Cave 5 with no gear, which is obv how the kids got in. If not true, then I challenge this due to show final rescue video. Huge credit to pump & generator team. Unsung heroes here,” [sic] he tweeted.

He did not stop there. He also called Unsworth “pedo guy” (paedophile). And when he was called out for branding a man a paedophile without justification or evidence, Musk doubled down on his accusation.

“Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true,” he insisted. His tweets have since been deleted.

As with the local and international professional divers who risked their lives to save the trapped boys, Unsworth has been hailed a hero. There has been no proof that he was a paedophile before or after Musk’s accusation.

Wild Boars pay tribute to fallen diver

Meanwhile, the 12 boys and their coach have paid tribute to Saman Kunan, the former Thai Navy SEAL who died during their rescue mission. They were informed of Kunan’s heroism after doctors determined they were strong enough to handle the news. The Thailand health ministry said they were upset upon learning that someone had died during the mission.

The 12-member "Wild Boars" soccer team and their coach rescued from a flooded cave pose with a drawing picture of Samarn Kuna The 12-member "Wild Boars" soccer team and their coach rescued from a flooded cave pose with a drawing picture of Samarn Kunan, a former Thai navy diver who died working to rescue them at the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital, in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 14, 2018. Picture taken July 14, 2018.  Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital AND Ministry of Public Health/Handout via Reuters Members of the "Wild Boars" soccer team and their coach, rescued from a flooded cave, cry after writing messages on a drawing of Samarn Kunan Members of the "Wild Boars" soccer team and their coach, rescued from a flooded cave, cry after writing messages on a drawing of Samarn Kunan, a former Thai navy diver who died working to rescue them, at the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital, in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 14, 2018. Picture taken July 14, 2018.  Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital AND Ministry of Public Health/Handout via Reuters Members of "Wild Boars" soccer team and their coach rescued from a flooded cave bow their heads after writing messages on a drawing picture of Samarn Kunan Members of "Wild Boars" soccer team and their coach rescued from a flooded cave bow their heads after writing messages on a drawing picture of Samarn Kunan, a former Thai navy diver who died working to rescue them at the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital, in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 14, 2018. Picture taken July 14, 2018.  Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital AND Ministry of Public Health/Handout via Reuters

“All cried and expressed their condolences by writing messages on a drawing of Lieutenant Commander Saman and observed one minute of silence for him,” the statement said. “They also thanked him and promised to be good boys.”

Health officials said the boys have recovered from their ordeal quickly. They are expected to leave the hospital on Thursday.