How a County Limerick man helped in the Thailand cave rescue

Donal O'Regan

Reporter:

Donal O'Regan

Team effort: Jim Warny and Cathal Mullane   Picture: Cathal Mullane

Team effort: Jim Warny and Cathal Mullane Picture: Cathal Mullane

THE WHOLE world was on tenterhooks over the Thailand cave rescue but none more so than Limerick man Cathal Mullane.

The Cappamore man’s good friend Jim Warny, who lives in Ennis, was part of the mission. Cathal gave Jim some of his own diving equipment, and sourced more from the University of Limerick Sub Aqua Club for him.

The two were actually diving together on the day the news broke that 12 boys and their coach were located. Little did they know they would be involved in saving them.

On Friday, Jim was asked by the British and the Irish Cave Rescue Councils if he would get involved. Cathal loaned Jim two universal weight pouches and a sidemount bouyancy compensator.

As the valve settings on the dive bottles used in Thailand are different to the ones here they did some searching.

“I’m a member of the University of Limerick Sub Aqua Club. They use the same type of regulators that would suit the bottles in Thailand. I approached them and they donated three regulators which I went and collected,” said Cathal, aged 35. By coincidence this man lived in Cathal’s home village of Cappamore.

Cathal then drove to Ennis to meet Jim. They fitted, tested, packed the equipment and said goodbye. The following morning Jim was in Thailand.

“The key message is that Jim is an amateur diver. He doesn’t do this for a profession, he is an electrician, of course he is apprehensive going doing this type of rescue.

“The scale of the rescue is absolutely unprecedented – it’s never been done before. Jim was focused on what he had to do and as you have seen from the last couple of days he has done it,” said Cathal, who is a cave diver, caver and CFT club instructor.

After actively diving continuously, more or less, for three days, Jim is now recovering.

“Personally I am delighted he is OK. It has been a stressful couple of days. We are delighted to help in any small way we could,” said Cathal.

The complex, three-day rescue saw four boys emerge on Sunday, four on Monday, and the final four boys plus their coach on Tuesday. This Wednesday, all 13 are receiving medical and psychological assistance but are recovering well. 

County Limerick’s Fine Gael TDs – Patrick O’Donovan and Tom Neville – praised Cathal for his role in the Thailand cave rescue.

Minister O’Donovan said: “To think that Cappamore - probably more renowned for the achievements of native son, John Hayes, on the rugby field for Munster and Ireland, and Cappamore’s successful tradition on the GAA pitch, has played a key role in the rescue operation is phenomenal. 

“I want to say well done to Cathal Mullane and all involved in Cappamore with their assistance to what occurred in Thailand. Cappamore is certainly on the worldwide map this week and all there fully deserve it.”

Deputy Neville said it is with pride that he congratulated those involved from Cappamore and Ennis for their “gallant reaction and selfless actions in getting equipment and using their knowledge and skills in aiding the rescue”. 

“To think that a small village in County Limerick such as Cappamore has done its bit in a worldwide rescue operation that has been top of the news agenda on every channel globally just shows no matter how far away, we can always make a difference,” said Deputy Neville.

Cappamore is well-known for its community spirit and local councillor, Noel Gleeson said everybody in the parish was delighted that a local was able to help in the rescue effort. 

“Fair play to Cathal to be on the ball so fast to get that equipment,” said Cllr Gleeson.