Billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk inserted himself into the dramatic rescue effort of a Thai boys’ soccer team when he came up with an idea for a kid-sized submarine to transport the teammates out of a cave where they were trapped.
Musk and a team of engineers from three of his companies even flew to Thailand to make their idea come to life. They named it “Wild Boar,” after the boys’ team.
The boys were sedated and escorted out by divers in stages this week ― without Musk’s involvement.
Nor did everyone appreciate his efforts.
“He can stick his submarine where it hurts,” expert caver Vern Unsworth told CNN International.
Unsworth was instrumental in locating the boys inside the Tham Luang cave system after they went missing. A U.K. native, he has been living nearby and exploring Tham Luang for six years, The New York Times reported.
“It just had absolutely no chance of working,” Unsworth contined. “He had no conception of what the cave passage was like. The submarine, I believe, was about 5-foot-6 long, rigid, so it wouldn’t have gone around corners, gone around any obstacles. It wouldn’t have made it the first 50 meters into the cave from the dive start point.”
The caver concluded that Musk’s effort was “just a PR stunt.”
The billionaire’s involvement was apparently inspired by a single Twitter follower’s request on July 3, when a user going by MabzMagz wrote, “Hi sir, if possible can you assist in anyway to get the 12 Thailand boys and their coach out of the cave.”
“I suspect the Thai govt has this under control, but I am happy to help if there is a way to do so,” Musk replied.
He was compelled to defend himself against numerous critics, especially after a former provincial governor in Thailand rejected the idea.
“I assure you that the equipment he brought to help us is not practical for our mission,” the former governor said, according to the Times. “Even though the equipment has state of the art technology, it does not fit our mission in the cave.”
In response, Musk shared email correspondence with a different cave diver at the site, Richard Stanton, who asked Musk to “please keep working on the capsule details,” as the rescue crew was “worried about the smallest lad.”
Ultimately, the sub was not used. According to Unsworth, Musk was “asked to leave [the caves] very quickly” after his arrival.
He left it in Thailand, just “in case it may be useful in the future.”