With the recovery of 12 children and their coach who were trapped in a cave in Thailand, the Times talked with local diving guru Edd Sorensen about his experiences in situations such as this. Sorensen immediately said he was more than ready had he been called to help.
Sorensen is well-known world-wide for his expertise in cave diving and rescue and is the IUCRR Regional Coordinator and said, “We had four people ready to go.”
In his years of diving, Sorensen has saved four divers, with three of those from Blue Springs and one from Twin Caves.
When asked about dry caves rescue, Sorensen said he had not been called for a dry-cave rescue, “Incidents like this have only happened about three times. On this particular occasion, I am a member, one of the original founding members of the ICURR (International Cave Underwater Rescue and Recovery). It was founded in 1999 for just this reason so that police, fire, Navy divers that aren’t cave trained because cave diving is a completely different ballgame.” Sorensen said a lot of people gave their lives to get those rules in place. We learned from others’ mistakes and that’s why I teach cave diving is because I want to keep people safe. That’s why I’m the safety director for the NSS CDS (National Speleological Society Cave Diving Section) I am passionate about it and I love helping people.”
Sorensen told of the rescue efforts in California a few years ago where five divers had gone in for a rescue and had not come out. They then called a group of divers from Florida who were part of a very elite rescue team that he still today says he was most flattered in 1999 when he was invited to be a part of that team. Sorensen jokingly says, “My mom was not too happy about it, she thought it was way too dangerous and I wasn’t getting paid and she was emphatic that I was going to quit and of course I did not.”
Sorenson says a lot of training goes into diving and especially being a rescue diver. He has been diving for more than 20 years which has helped him become the expert diver he is in his field.
Sorensen says of being part of rescue and recovery, “Really to be a good rescue and recovery team specialist, you should be cave diving for quite a while and be very experienced, be very comfortable with zero visibility.”
Ready and waiting, Sorensen said, “We had a team of divers standing by but they got the British crew in there first and they’ve just done a fantastic job.”
In closing when Sorensen was asked how he thought the rescue efforts went overall, Sorensen was very open and honest, “As part of the ICURR, we never second-guess anyone or speculate so for me to say would I have done it differently had I been there, probably. BUT I can’t say that for sure because the ICURR did not have an agreement with Thailand. We have it with multiple countries, Thailand just wasn’t one of them. So, when I got called from a reporter on the first day and she asked me are you going and I had just got back in town and I didn’t even know this was unfolding, I asked her how she got my name. She said she had googled cave rescues and my name came up more than anybody. And I said well that’s because I have more rescues than anybody. And she interviewed me and asked if I would be willing to go.” Sorensen says, “At that time, I told her I would have the president of the ICURR reach out to the government and I did.” Sorensen said that type of thing takes time and the government was obviously busy with the rescue at that time, “I was certainly ready to but the British divers were closer and got there quicker. Rick and John did a fantastic job, they’re great divers. They got to the boys the first day. At that point, it was a turning point because you have to figure that those boys were in that cave, it was dark, no food, no water, they had a few chips and a soda but that was probably long since gone, it wouldn’t have lasted 20 minutes. All they had was hope that somebody was coming and they didn’t know until that light appeared and they popped out of the water. And you know kids, American kids as well as I do, what would have happened – in the dark, 11-15 years old, they would have been screaming, yelling, panicking and those kids were so calm, so subtle, and they weren’t happy they were there but they were quiet and respectful and they just sat there. The divers told them there were going to be many, many people coming and there was.”
Sorensen said one of the things they teach in cave is zero visibility drills and we use the masks that goes over them and they see nothing. Sorensen said, “In this instance they know it’s only a drill and they still panic somewhat so how they got those kids not to panic is remarkable. There is no substitute for on-scene knowledge. You can’t do better than 100% success”
Marianna is indeed fortunate to have someone of Sorensen’s knowledge and expertise available at a moment’s notice for local law enforcement and to have four citizens to have been rescued through his efforts.