Stanton first made international headlines with fellow-diver Jason Mallinson in 2004 when the pair succeeded in rescuing six British Combined Services cavers trapped by floodwaters in Mexico’s Cueva de Alpazat system.

In 2010, as part of the South & Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team, Stanton and Volanthen were called in by the French government to locate diver Eric Establie, trapped inside the Dragonnière Gaud cave in France. They recovered his body after an eight-day operation, for which they received Royal Humane Society bronze medals.

Stanton and Volanthen, along with Mallinson, were also involved in an unsuccessful bid to extract the bodies of two Finnish cave-divers from the Plura cave in Norway in 2014. The story of how the victims’ friends later went back for them – a mission questioned by Stanton – was told in the film Diving Into The Unknown.

As a firefighter, Stanton won the West Midland’s Fire Service's Aspire Hero of the Year award. He was made an MBE in 2012, telling DIVER that the accolade was “primarily for my involvement in technical overseas cave-diving rescues and recoveries”.  

He had been interviewed in depth about his approach to cave-diving by Brendan O’Brien for DIVER back in 2007 - read it here

Non-rescue achievements for Stanton and Volanthen include setting a British cave depth record of 90m in Wookey Hole in 2004; helping to push the Tannerie resurgence in the Ardeche to a depth of 222m in 2008; and, with two other divers, achieving a world-record penetration of 8.8km in Spain’s Pozo Azul cave system in 2010.

In the current widely reported Tham Luang Nang Non cave emergency, the pair were called in by the Thai authorities on the advice of the British Cave Rescue Council to lend their expertise to the 1000-strong military-led search and rescue operation, which had been going on since 23 June.

Using rebreathers, they made several reconnaissance dives before pushing through to locate the boys in a dry chamber, reckoned to be some 2km into the cave and as much as 1000m below the surface – and some 400m from where previous searches had centred.

They laid guidelines while Thai military divers followed, stashing air-cylinders along the route for future use.

The round trip, made in low-visibility monsoon floodwater and complicated by banks of silt and mud, constrictions and adverse currents, took the divers about three hours and was described by them later as “gnarly”. But they were able to reassure the trapped boys that, with their location known, emergency supplies would soon follow.

With further rain inevitable, and drilling into the small air-space not considered a safe option, diving the trapped boys out might now be the only practical way to extract them.

During the Mexico rescue mission in 2004, Stanton is said to have persuaded a caver who was afraid of water to make a 180m dive to safety – but an underwater operation on the scale required in Thailand would be unprecedented.

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