Diver Who Helped Save Thai Soccer Team Goes Missing While Exploring Underwater Cave in Tennessee

One of the divers who successfully helped evacuate a youth soccer team and their coach from a flooded Thailand cave over the summer required a rescue mission of his own after he went missing in a similar underground enclosure in Tennessee.

British rescue diver Josh Bratchley had been exploring the Mill Pond Cave in Northern Tennessee with a group over the last few days but did not return when they all resurfaced on Tuesday evening.

After a day-long rescue mission, Bratchley was found late Wednesday, Jackson County Emergency Management Agency’s Public Information Officer Ethan Burris confirmed to PEOPLE.

“At approximately 6:00 p.m. a specially trained cave diver entered the water to search for the trapped tourist. At approximately 6:58 p.m., the cave diver successfully rescued the trapped diver,” Burris said. “After the diver was rescued and brought out of the water, he stated that he was fine.”

“He was then evaluated by medical crews on scene and found to be stable,” Burris continued. “He has refused medical treatment and transport.”

RELATED: All 12 Boys and Soccer Coach Out of Thailand Cave as Two Week Rescue Operation Comes to Close

Bratchley was said to be found inside an “air bell” in the cave, which is an enclosed space between the cave’s roof and the water surface that luckily contained enough air for the diver to survive, ABC News reports.

Despite the traumatic experience, British Cave Rescue Council’s Vice Chairman Bill Whitehouse told the news outlet that the diver is currently in “good health and good spirits.”

Speaking to PEOPLE, Whitehouse also noted that the British Cave Rescue Council was “relieved” to hear that Bratchley was found alive.

“All Josh’s friends in the BCRC are delighted and relieved that he is safely out of the cave and we are very grateful for the excellent job done by the local rescue team in Tennessee,” he said.

RELATED: Tears, Hunger and Fear: Inside Thailand Youth Soccer Team’s 2 Weeks Trapped in Flooded Cave

Bratchley and the group of five experienced British divers had initially traveled to the U.S. to explore the cave, which can only be entered underwater, over the course of a few days, according to ABC News.

The team first noticed that Bratchley went missing between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. local time on Tuesday. After unsuccessfully searching for him for hours, the team called 911 at 1:17 a.m. early Wednesday, the outlet reports.

While professional divers and crews worked to locate Bratchley in Mill Pond Cave throughout the day, a U.S. rescue team with trained divers from Arkansas and Florida were on their way to help with the search mission.

Because Bratchley was experienced, he was able to find an air bell that was large enough for him to climb into until he was rescued later Wednesday evening, ABC News reports.

Bratchley was one of the 19 divers who assisted in the three-day rescue of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach in Thailand last July.

The 12 members of the team — ranging in age from 11 to 16 — and their coach had been exploring the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex in northern Thailand on June 23 when heavy rains and rising floodwaters blocked the team’s path, leaving the group unable to get out.

After more than two weeks and with the assistance of thousands of Navy SEAL divers, police, soldiers, border guards, and officials, the group successfully exited the cave alongside the professional divers.

Though they required at least a week of quarantine due to high risk of infection, the boys and their coach were all relatively in good health and eventually reunited with their families.


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