Tesla chief executive Elon Musk may face legal action after he called a British cave diver, who helped rescue 12 boys and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand, a “pedo” for his criticism of the tech billionaire’s plan to rescue the soccer team using a miniature submarine.

Musk attacked Vernon Unsworth on Twitter after the cave explorer dismissed his rescue plan as a “PR stunt,” and said he was asked to leave Thailand upon his arrival.

“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,” Musk wrote. “Thai navy seals escorted us in – total opposite of wanting us to leave.”

“You know what, don’t bother showing the (final rescue) video. We will make one of the mini-sub/pod going all the way to Cave 5 no problemo,” he wrote. “Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.”

“Pedo” is short for paedophile. Musk has since deleted the tweets.

Unsworth told AFP on Monday 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 the UK 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’s criticism of Musk

Unsworth was instrumental in rescuing the 12-member “Wild Boars” soccer team and their coach from a flooded cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai, where they were trapped for more than two weeks.

Reports said Unsworth has expert local knowledge of the Tham Luang cave system and decades of experience of diving there.

“He can stick his submarine where it hurts. It just had absolutely no chance of working. He had no conception of what the cave passage was like,” Unsworth told CNN in an earlier interview.

“The submarine, I believe, was about 5ft 6in long, rigid, so it wouldn’t have gone round corners or round any obstacles. It wouldn’t have made it the first 50 metres,” he noted, as most critics had.

Claus Rasmussen, a Danish national and instructor at Blue Label diving in Phuket, called Musk’s allegations “inappropriate” and praised Unsworth’s role in the rescue.

“He was the guy who effectively mapped most of that cave,” he told AFP. “He was one of the driving forces in getting everything done and clarifying for us divers what was going on.”

Some Twitter followers pointed out that Musk, who earlier said he would be more careful over his use of the social media platform, was calling Unsworth a paedophile without any evidence and called his behaviour “despicable”.

“Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true,” Musk wrote late Sunday morning, a few hours before he deleted his tweets.

Musk had earlier provoked condemnation after tweeting that the Thai rescue chief, who had declined the submarine prototype offer, was not really in charge of the operation.

(With agency inputs)

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