MAE SAI, Thailand — A British caver who helped rescue 12 boys from a Thai cave said on Tuesday that he has been approached by British and American lawyers and will seek legal advice after Tesla CEO Elon Musk directed abuse at him on Twitter.
"I've been approached by British lawyers, American lawyers. I haven't decided what to do next yet," Vern Unsworth told Reuters in Mae Sai town in Chiang Rai province, about 2 miles from the cave where the boys and their coach were trapped for 18 days.
Unsworth has said he is considering legal action against the billionaire entrepreneur, who is chief executive of the electric car maker Tesla.
"I can't let it go. There's too much out there already," Unsworth told Reuters in an interview — meaning, presumably, that Musk's unsubstantiated pedophile claim had proliferated worldwide. Asked which law firm he would hire, Unsworth said: "I don't know yet. I have to take advice."
Unsworth declined to identify who had approached him.
Tesla spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Musk could not be reached for comment.
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Musk's spat with Unsworth started last week, after rescue teams rejected Musk's offer of a mini-submarine created by his rocket company SpaceX to help extract the youth soccer team and the coach from the labyrinth of partly flooded passages.
"It just has absolutely no chance of working," CNN quoted Unsworth as saying about the submarine. Unsworth, who has explored the cave complex for years, said the device couldn't possibly negotiate the cave's many narrow passages.
Musk responded on Twitter on Sunday saying: "We will make one (video) of the mini-sub/pod going all the way to Cave 5 no problem." In that and another tweet, Musk made his claim about Unsworth.
The tweets were later deleted.
Unsworth said he hasn't flatly denied Musk's accusation because he was waiting for legal advice.
Asked why he thought Musk would make such a comment about him, he said: "I don't know."
A police officer in Chiang Rai, where Unsworth has lived for seven years, said that no charges or complaints had ever been filed against Unsworth. The officer declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Unsworth, 63, said he hadn't actually met Musk face to face when Musk visited the cave during the rescue effort.
He said he felt sorry that the squabble with Musk had detracted from the successful end to the rescue mission.
"It's taken a bit of the pleasure out of what's happened, what we've achieved, for me anyway," he said, adding that it had upset his ex-wife and daughter back in Britain. "It's very much upset my daughter," the caver said, his voice breaking.
Shares of Tesla fell more than 3.5 percent on Monday, knocking almost $2 billion off the company's market value, but the stock came back strong on Tuesday on positive news about the Model 3.
Several analysts and investors, requesting anonymity, told Reuters that Musk's comments were adding to their concerns that he's distracted from Tesla's main business of producing electric cars.
The "Wild Boar" soccer team was rescued last week by a group of foreign and Thai divers through a network of narrow passages and chambers. The boys, ages 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach are expected to leave hospital on Wednesday.
Unsworth was the first foreigner called to the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand after relatives noticed the boys had not come out after setting out to explore the cave complex on June 23 following soccer practice.
He said he has lost count of how many times he has been inside the 6-mile long Tham Luang cave.
"It has been my third home for the past six years," he said.
Two British divers who were asked by Unsworth to join the mission were the first to discover the boys.
Unsworth said he brought his knowledge about the cave to the rescue mission but added that he had "no idea" what the diving conditions were like because he is not a cave diver.
He said he will fly from Thailand to London on Thursday, where he will stay for around three weeks.
Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre