Billionaire Tesla and Paypal founder, Elon Musk has been hit by significant criticism and threats of legal action following a bizarre Twitter tirade on Sunday evening.
British caving expert Vernon Unsworth (63), was a volunteer who played an instrumental role in providing his mapping knowledge in the successful mission to rescue the 12 boys and their football coach (the ‘Wild Boar’ football team) trapped in a flooded network of perilous caves in Chiang Rai, Thailand last week.
Whilst expert teams from around the world scrutinously planned the rescue of the boys who were trapped over three kilometres from the entrance of the flooded cave, the South African entrepreneur decided to offer his assistance. The Billionaire shared that he was working alongside the authorities in Thailand to produce a prototype, child-sized submarine/escape pod to free the boys.
Some good feedback from cave experts in Thailand. Iterating with them on an escape pod design that might be safe enough to try. Also building an inflatable tube with airlocks. Less likely to work, given tricky contours, but great if it does.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 7, 2018
Testing underwater in LA pool pic.twitter.com/CDO2mtjP2D
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 8, 2018
After sharing various ‘testing’ videos on his social media platforms, Musk travelled to Chiang Rai with his prototype on 9th July at which point 8 of the group were still trapped.
Just returned from Cave 3. Mini-sub is ready if needed. It is made of rocket parts & named Wild Boar after kids’ soccer team. Leaving here in case it may be useful in the future. Thailand is so beautiful. pic.twitter.com/EHNh8ydaTT
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 9, 2018
Despite his apparent fervent efforts, the international team of divers/rescuers opted not to use Musk’s prototype, managing to rescue all 12 boys and their 25-year old coach by last Tuesday 10th July.
Unsworth, the victim of Musk’s Twitter attack, described the submarine offer a ‘PR-stunt’ and said in a widely shared interview it had, “absolutely no chance of working.” He continued, “He had no conception of what the cave passage was like. The submarine, I believe, was about 5ft 6in long, rigid, so it wouldn’t have gone round corners or round any obstacles.” Unsworth also confirmed Musk “was asked to leave very quickly,” when he arrived at the caves with his prototype. He also told CNN the entrepreneur could “stick his submarine where it hurts.”
In a series of now-deleted Tweets to his 22 million followers on Sunday night Musk responded to Unsworth and other criticism saying he would produce a video proving his submarine could have saved the children. And in response to a journalist, Musk attacked Unsworth’s criticism, tweeting, “Never saw this British expat guy who lives in Thailand (sus) at any point when we were in the caves. Only people in sight were the Thai navy/army guys, who were great. Thai navy seals escorted us in — total opposite of wanting us to leave.”
In clarification of the use of “sus”, Musk further responded with “Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it”. Then when a Twitter user pointed out he was referring to a man who helped rescue the children a ‘Pedo’, the billionaire responded with, “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.”
Those who took part in the mission have condemned Musk’s tweets and allegations. Claus Rasmussen, a Danish diving instructor working Phuket described the tweets as ‘inappropriate’ and overall praised Unsworth for his role in the rescue mission saying, “He was the guy who effectively mapped most of that cave.”
Prior to this, Musk had already received criticism from the head of the command centre Narongsak Ostanakorn who described the prototype as ‘sophisticated but not practical for the operation’. However, Musk had bitterly responded saying that Ostanakorn was, “not the subject matter expert,” and it was inaccurate to describe him as the ‘rescue chief’.
Elon Musk has 22 million followers, many of them fanboys. When he calls someone a child rapist because they challenge him online, his stans listen. Incredibly messed up. Incredibly dangerous.
— Angus Johnston (@studentactivism) July 15, 2018
Many users on Twitter have intensely criticised Musk for this bizarre and completely unfounded tirade. Although unconfirmed, Unsworth is expected to seek legal action in a case of libel against the billionaire entrepreneur.