UK caver considering legal action after Elon Musk tweet

UK caver considering legal action after Elon Musk tweet

British caver Vernon Unsworth (centre) gets out of a pickup truck near the Tham Luang cave complex, where 12 boys and their soccer coach are trapped, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 5, 2018. (Reuters photo)
British caver Vernon Unsworth (centre) gets out of a pickup truck near the Tham Luang cave complex, where 12 boys and their soccer coach are trapped, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 5, 2018. (Reuters photo)

A British caver who helped rescue the 12 boys and their coach from Tham Luang cave said on Monday he may take legal action against Elon Musk after the American entrepreneur called him a "pedo".

Tesla CEO Musk launched the extraordinary tirade against Vernon Unsworth without providing any justification or explanation, after the cave expert slammed his offer of a miniature submarine pod to extract the footballers from the cave as a "PR stunt".

The "Wild Boar" team were rescued last week by an international team of divers through a narrow network of twisting, flooded tunnels.

Mr Unsworth, who provided mapping knowledge of the cave to rescuers, said Mr Musk's prototype would have had "absolutely no chance of working".

Mr Musk responded on Sunday in a bizarre series of tweets referring to Mr Unsworth without using his name as "pedo guy".

"Pedo" is short for paedophile.

He then doubled down on the claim, tweeting from his official account to more than 22 million followers: "Bet ya a signed dollar it's true".

Mr Musk later deleted the tweets and did not immediately respond to a request for comment through Tesla.

Mr Unsworth told AFP on Monday he had not reviewed the tweets in full and had only heard about them.

Elon Musk launched the extraordinary tirade against Vernon Unsworth from his official Twitter account - which has more than 22 million followers - without providing any justification or explanation

Asked if he would take legal action against Mr Musk over the allegation, he said: "If it's what I think it is yes."

The caver told AFP he would make a decision when he flies back to the UK this week, but said the episode "ain't finished".

"He's just a PR stunt merchant -- that's all he is," Mr Unsworth added.

Mr Unsworth, who lives part of the year in Thailand, took part in the gargantuan 18-day effort to retrieve the 12 boys and their coach, a mission that ended on July 10 when the last five members were extracted.

Mr Musk's tweets prompted condemnation from those who took part in the mission to save the boys.

Claus Rasmussen, a Danish national and instructor at Blue Label diving in Phuket, called the allegations "inappropriate" and praised Mr Unsworth's role in the rescue.

"He was the guy who effectively mapped most of that cave," he told AFP. 

"He was one of the driving forces in getting everything done and clarifying for us divers what was going on."

Mr Musk had earlier provoked condemnation by tweeting that the head of the rescue mission, who had described the use of the submarine pod prototype as "not practical", was not really in charge of the operation.

The caver said he would make a decision when he flies back to the UK this week, but added that the episode with Musk "ain't finished".

'Life and death'

Mr Unsworth, who lives part of the year in Thailand, took part in the gargantuan 18-day effort to retrieve the 12 boys and their coach, a mission that ended on July 10 when the last five members were extracted.

The boys are all in good health and expected to be released from the hospital Thursday.

Reports emerged on Monday that two Australian divers who took part in the rescue had obtained diplomatic immunity before the operation in case it failed.

Anaesthetist Richard Harris and diver Craig Challen were protected from prosecution if anything went awry following negotiations between Australian and Thai authorities, according to Australian broadcaster ABC.

Mr Challen said the divers had been uncertain if they would be able to save all 12 boys and their coach in the "life and death" rescue mission.

"It wasn't dangerous for us, but I can't emphasise enough how dangerous it was for the kids," he told Perth's Sunday Times.

The boys got stuck in the cave after wandering in on June 23 after football practice only to find themselves trapped by rising floodwaters.

They were found nine days later on a muddy embankment several kilometres inside.

The unprecedented operation to haul them out involved sedating the footballers and swimming and carrying them through tight, waterlogged passages.

Mr Musk had proposed using "a tiny, kid-size submarine" featuring technology from his space exploration firm to evacuate the boys, and travelled to Thailand with a prototype last Tuesday.

Mr Musk's tweets attacking Mr Unsworth prompted condemnation from those who took part in the mission to save the boys.

Claus Rasmussen, a Danish national and instructor at Blue Label diving in Phuket, called the allegations "inappropriate" and praised Unsworth's role in the rescue.

"He was one of the driving forces in getting everything done and clarifying for us divers what was going on," he told AFP.


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