CHIANG RAI – British caver Vernon Unsworth who was instrumental in the rescue the Wild Boars soccer team from Tham Luang cave said today he may take legal action against Elon Musk after the Tesla CEO called him a “pedo”.
Musk launched a stinging attack on Unsworth without providing any justification or explanation, after the cave expert slammed his offer of a miniature submarine to extract the footballers from the Tham Luang cave as a “PR stunt”.
Unsworth told AFP today he had not reviewed the tweets in full and had only heard about them.
Asked if he would take legal action against Musk over the allegation, Unsworth said: “If it’s what I think it is yes.” The caver told AFP he would make a decision when he flies back to Britain this week, but said the episode with Musk “ain’t finished”.
“He’s just a PR stunt merchant – that’s all he is,” Unsworth added.
Unsworth, who lives part of the year in Thailand, took part in the gargantuan 18-day effort to retrieve the 12 boys and their coach, a mission that ended on July 10 when the last five members were extracted.
In his interview with CNN, Unsworth noted that the flooded tunnel was extremely narrow and twisted. “The submarine, I believe was about five, six feet long. Rigid,” he said. “So it wouldn’t have gone around corners or around any obstacles. It wouldn’t have made it the first 50 metres.”
Unsworth then claimed that Musk had been quickly asked to leave the cave during his much-tweeted-about visit.
Musk responded Sunday in a bizarre series of tweets referring to Unsworth without using his name as “pedo guy”. “Pedo” is short for paedophile.
When a Twitter user pointed out that Musk was “calling the guy who found the children a pedo”, the billionaire responded: “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.” Both tweets have since been deleted.
Unsworth, who lives in Thailand, was among the first cave divers on the scene in Mae Sai after the boys from the Wild Boars football team and their coach became trapped inside on 23 June.
Rescuers have said he used his knowledge of the cave system and networks in the cave diving community to marshall a response that was crucial in locating the boys 10 days later, and helping to free them last week.
Unsworth said he had saved copies of Musk’s tweets and believed he had “lost the plot”.
“I have a lot of support from people around the world astonished by his unfounded comments,” he said.
He had no contact with Musk throughout the rescue operation nor since — a situation he hopes will not change.
“I don’t know the guy, never met the guy, and don’t want to meet the guy,” he said.
Thai Cave Rescue: British diver Vern Unsworth has told 7 News’ @MyleeHogan that he’s considering legal action after being referred to as ‘pedo guy’ by @elonmusk. “It’s not finished…I believe he’s called me a ‘paedophile’…I think people realise what sort of guy he is.” #7News pic.twitter.com/jzVUAtraun
— 7 News Sydney (@7NewsSydney) July 16, 2018
Musk had already attracted criticism for his approach to the Thai rescue after Narongsak Osatanakorn, head of the joint command centre, said the mini-submarine was sophisticated but not practical for the operation.
Musk responded by saying Osatanakorn was “not the subject matter expert” and that he had been “inaccurately described as rescue chief” and should have been labelled the “former Thai provincial governor”. Osatanakorn stepped down as Chiang Rai governor during the rescue, but had been asked to keep serving as commander.
Musk was intensely criticised on Twitter for the attack on Unsworth. Some users pointed out how “dangerous” and irresponsible it was to make such a serious allegation and to broadcast a potentially libellous insult to his 22 million followers.
James Anderson, a partner at Baillie Gifford, Tesla’s fourth-largest shareholder, told the Guardian in an email: “I intend to convey my — predictable I trust — feelings to the company tomorrow.” He declined to elaborate.
Musk had pledged to be less combative on social media, saying earlier this week: “I have made the mistaken assumption — and I will attempt to be better at this — of thinking that because somebody is on Twitter and is attacking me that it is open season. That is my mistake. I will correct it.”