THE proud father of a diver who helped rescue youngsters stranded in a flooded cave has hailed everyone involved as a hero.

Experienced diver Tim Acton, 39, who runs a hotel complex in Bangkok, was asked to join the rescue operation in the Tham Luang cave in Thailand by friends in the country’s Navy Seals who he had previously worked with.

Mr Acton, who moved from Wrabness to Thailand 12 years ago, was part of the supply team and went into the cave where the 12 boys and the assistant coach of their football team - nicknamed the Wild Boars - had been trapped for 18 days.

Remarkably, everyone who had been missing was found and brought out of the cave safe and well over three days despite freak weather flooding the cave and many of the boys not being able to swim.

Tim’s wife, Took, and daughter, Milly, kept his father, John, informed about the situation until he was able to speak to his son on Wednesday.

John said: “They went to the airport yesterday morning and were mobbed by reporters from radio and television reporters.

“He said they were treated like royalty.

“They were taken into the VIP lounge and presented with a ceremonial gold coin while the governor in charge of the whole operation has asked for his personal details to get back in touch.

“He said it was one of the last boys they were worried about and when he came through his section and he saw his face it brought a tear to his eye because he reminded him of his daughter.

“She is nine so not much that younger than them and apparently he was a really small lad. They struggled to get a dive mask to fit him.”

John said he and wife, Lynne, had been worried about their son.

He said: “We are extremely proud of him, words can’t really express it.

“That is him all over, he will do anything to help people out.

“He doesn’t want any recognition or anything like that.

“My wife had done really well to keep everything bottled up until she got a text from her granddaughter on Monday.

“It said that she loved her, but her daddy had gone into the cave and they were praying he would be all right.

“She had to pull the car over because she was bawling her eyes out.”

John said everyone who volunteered to help should be recognised.

“All the people who were there should be thanked,” he said.

“It was a massive team effort. They would not have been able to do it without the skills of the divers, the people pumping out the water or even people making teas and washing clothes.

“He said they were treated so well while they were in the camp which had been set up.

“He told me it was unbelievable.”