Beaconsfield Survivor On Thai Rescue: 'The Wait Is The Worst Thing'

Brant Webb is one of the only people in the world who understands what the team trapped in Thailand is going through.

As the world watches in anticipation of the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand, very few people would know exactly what it's like to be trapped -- isolated -- underground while an international rescue effort takes place above your head.

Brant Webb does.

Webb is one of two survivors of the Beaconsfield Mine collapse.

Brant Webb (right) and Todd Russell emerge from the Beaconsfield mine lift in 2006, after being trapped underground for 14 days. Photo: AAP.

He and his colleague Todd Russell spent two weeks trapped more than a kilometre underground in 2006, when the Tasmanian mine collapsed following a small earthquake.

"These kids are going through the same thing we're going through," he told Studio 10 on Friday morning.

"We got found, and then we had to wait. And the wait is what brought all the pressure on everything.

"How are we going to get out? How are we going to keep alive?

"Your body's going downhill at a rapid rate, you've got no muscle, all your fat's burnt off. It doesn't really affect you there and then, because you've got adrenaline, you've just been found, it's a euphoric feeling when you get found, and then you're riding this rollercoaster. You're found, and then all of a sudden, you're staying here."

Webb was knocked unconscious in the accident, and Russell was partially buried. Both men managed to free themselves using Stanley knives. Photo: 60 Minutes.

But he said the junior soccer team, who are aged between 11 and 16, would likely be in even more distress due to the daunting task of being taught how to dive and maneuver their way through the complex cave network. Most of the boys can't swim.

"Anyone who's done any diving, it's a scary thing," he said, adding that he often dives to "escape everything".

"Without sight, we tend to fear. If you rip your goggles off underwater, and you rip your regulator out, it's instant fear. And that's what they'll be training them to do."

The Wild Boar soccer team and their coach have been trapped for ten days in a cave complex in northern Thailand. Photo: Facebook.

But the moment the boys walk out of the cave -- as joyful as it will be for the rescuers and the world -- will be no picnic, either.

Webb said that when he was greeted by hundreds of people at Beaconsfield, he felt like the earthquake that had trapped him was happening all over again.

"I thought the sky was falling in. I pushed my wife away and thought, run for your life. I thought it was all going down again."

The days before he and Russell made contact with rescuers, Webb said his family was all he could think about.

"For six days all I did was rewind it all in slow motion. It was really a somber feeling, thinking you're leaving your family. As the breadwinner of the family, you're thinking, what's going to become of them? What's going to become of my children? I'll never see my grandkids, I'll never get to experience anything else. It's like a great loss. You go into a bit of depression and sadness.

"You care about your loved ones so much, you're going through the sorrow for them."

Webb says he imagines the boys will be keeping each other's spirits up. Photo: Thai Navy SEALS.

What got them through the long rescue period were small tasks to keep their mind off the situation.

A phone line was established, and rescue teams kept Webb and Russell involved in every stage of the planning, while medical teams gave them constant instructions to keep themselves healthy.

But one of the worst things was the trust that was broken between the men trapped and their rescuers.

Despite the phone line, neither Webb or Russell were allowed to speak to their families.

Webb and his wife Rachel pose for a photo at an event marking the first anniversary of the rescue, in 2007. Photo: AAP.

"They had their reasons [for preventing us from speaking to our families], but those reasons didn't cut it with me," said Webb.

They were allowed to write letters back and forth, but rescuers would edit those letters, at one point even misspelling the name of Webb's wife.

"If you're in a position where you think you're going to die, you don't want to be lied to. You want to trust your rescuers, you want to be able to trust everyone around you that they're doing the right thing by you. And then when they do something like that, you lose the trust in these people."

Losing that trust caused his heart to sink that one extra notch, he said.

"And if you lose too many notches, it's depression."