British diver who helped save Thailand football team rescued from US cave

Jessica Carpani
Josh Bratchley, the British diver who helped save Thailand football team has had to be rescued from a US cave

A British cave diver who helped save the Thai football team last year has had to be rescued after becoming stuck in US caves during expedition with UK team, it emerges.

Josh Bratchley failed to return to the surface with the rest of a party after they emerged from a cave in Jackson County, Tennessee, at around 3pm on Tuesday (9pm BST).

After several attempts to find him themselves, his fellow divers alerted emergency services at around 1am local time (7am BST) on Wednesday morning.

Expert divers were flown in from Arkansas and Florida and a rescue dive began at around 6pm on Wednesday evening (midnight BST).

Authorities said he was successfully rescued around an hour later after being found waiting calmly in an air pocket. By which point, he had been in the cave for 28 hours. 

 Emergency services at the scene where Josh Bratchley, diver who helped free Thai soccer team, was rescued from Tennessee cave

"He was awake, alert and oriented," rescue official Derek Woolbright told a press conference.

"His only request when he got to the surface was that he wanted some pizza."

Mr Bratchley was checked over by medics who found he was "stable" and he declined further treatment.

Mr Bratchley was checked over by medics who found he was "stable" and he declined further treatment.

A spokesperson for the MET office, where Josh works as an Operational Meteorologist, based at RAF Valley in Anglesey, have said that Josh is ‘safe and well and we are very pleased with that.’

They can also confirm that the expedition in northern Tennessee was something Josh was doing on his own time.

Emergency services at the scene Credit: Chuck Sutherland

Mr Bratchley was part of a crack team of British cave diving experts who helped save 12 schoolboys and their football coach from a flooded cave in Thailand last year.

A meteorologist by trade, he was later honoured at a reception held by the Prime Minister at Downing Street and appointed MBE in the 2019 New Year's Honours list.

The diver was praised for his composure by lieutenant Brian Krebs, from Chattanooga Hamilton County Rescue Services.

Josh was a member of the BCRC team who travelled to Thailand last summer to help with the remarkable rescue of twelve boys and their football coach 

"He really did this for himself. Most of what happened here today was Josh, his mental state is excellent, he's in good health, he's fine."

Rescue diver Edd Sorenson added: "I could've got to him sooner, but I was looking at every nook and cranny looking for a body.

"There were broken lines and it was a very silty, dangerous low cave. We came up to the air pocket and shockingly there he was, calm as could be.

 Mill Pond Cave where Josh Bratchley, diver who helped free Thai soccer team, was rescued

"He just said 'thank you, thank you. Who are you?"'

The British Cave Rescue Council said: “Last night BCRC was both pleased and relieved to receive some excellent news from the United States informing them that Josh Bratchley had been successfully rescued from Millpond Cave in Tennessee where he had been overdue on a cave dive undertaken there on Wednesday 17th April.

“Josh was a member of the BCRC team who travelled to Thailand last summer to help with the remarkable rescue of twelve boys and their football coach who had become trapped by floodwater in the Tham Luang Cave.

The Twelve Thai boys and their football coach, rescued from a flooded cave after being trapped, attend a press conference in Chiang Rai on July 18, 2018, Credit: AFP

“Our congratulations and thanks go to the Chatanooga-Hamilton County Rescue Service and all others involved in Josh’s rescue.”

They added: “Cave Diving is a technical and hazardous activity and there are a number of known issues that can prevent a cave diver retracing their steps including; lost or mis-placed guideline, equipment malfunction and cave collapse.”