JUST LIKE one of his idols “Superman”, Army doctor Lt-Colonel Pak Loharachun is strong and dedicated to helping others.
When the 39-year-old Pak emerged from the flooded Tham Luang cave after the spectacularly successful mission to rescue the 13 trapped footballers in Chiang Rai province on Tuesday night, he was in effect “a hero”. And like Superman, famous and adored.
His latest heroic deed, after all, took place under the intense spotlight of not just Thai but also foreign media.
After it was confirmed that the 12 boys and their football coach were found alive deep inside the inundated cave on July 2, Pak took up the dangerous mission of diving through muddy floodwaters and jagged rocks to treat and care for the stranded group.
The boys aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach, had been stranded in the cave without food since June 23.
At the start of Pak’s mission, no one was sure how to safely evacuate the stranded footballers, who had no diving skills. There were doubts whether human efforts could rein in the relentless tide of floodwater in the cave.
The rainy season has already started in Thailand and it was flash floods that left the footballers of the Mu Pa (Wild Boars) Academy Mae Sai trapped inside, although the group was quite familiar with the cave.
Locals say no one really knows whether the whole cave gets submerged during the peak of the wet season. But they do know that the vicinity of the cave is deep in floodwater when a heavy downpour continues for days.
Despite the risks involved, Pak was part of a team that decided to do its best to save the stranded group.
Pak and members of the Royal Thai Navy’s SEALs started their journey from the third chamber of the Tham Luang cave at 5am on July 3, trekking and diving over a two-kilometre stretch to reach the trapped football team.
Once Pak met the group, he cheered them up and recorded their smiles in a video clip to share with the outside world.
The clip was released on July 4 to the delight of people around the world who were closely following the cave saga. Then Pak stayed behind with the footballers inside the dark cave.
People who know Pak were not surprised that he would agree to take the risks. His friends and subordinates know him as always kind and caring.
Pak, who heads the Army’s 3rd Medical Battalion, graduated from medical school and later endured numerous military training courses, including SEALs.
With his range of medical and diving skills, he became the chosen man for the mission.
It is a measure of how good a job Pak did that all the footballers under his care were found to be in good spirits and relatively healthy when they were finally evacuated safely and taken to Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital.
The evacuation of the trapped footballers started on Sunday, with each survivor being escorted by highly skilled divers, and concluded on Tuesday. All the 13 members of the Mu Pa Academy Mae Sai are now declared safe and in sound health.
Rows of admirers greeted Pak and the rescuers when they emerged from the Tham Luang cave on Tuesday night.
A little later, Pak was found having his first meal out of the cave – a cup of instant noodles.
Waiting for him at home are his family – his wife and their son.
Pak’s wife is also a medical doctor, as are Pak’s parents and his elder brother.