It was the moment well-wishers around the world had been waiting for. Thailand’s rescued soccer boys, out from the flooded cave and out of the hospital, were finally heading home.
Sitting alongside their rescuers, the boys and their coach smiling and waving and sharing details of their frightening ordeal at the press conference.
The boys from the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach initially disappeared on June 23 after entering the Tham Luang cave network through a small entrance. They had planned to explore the cave after a practice but became trapped when monsoon rain flooded the cave.
It’s been revealed just how difficult it was to bring the boys out of the cave. The rescuers had to get through four kilometers of dark, tight and twisting tunnels, flooded by monsoon rain.
One rescuer said it was feared that as many as four or five of the 12 boys might not have survived the rescue mission. He added that the Thai government had granted the rescuers immunity from prosecution in the event of such tragedy, so the team could freely go ahead with the rescue attempt.
The boys and their coach were first sedated to keep them calm, then given an oxygen supply. They were pulled, pushed and coaxed through tiny flooded chambers, each by two skilled divers. It was a nightmarish journey that took four to six hours for each survivor.
“While we were waiting, we kept looking for a way out and looking for water to drink. We drank water that was dripping down the cave walls,” the rescued Pornchai Kamluang said.
At the press conference, the boys and the coach expressed their gratitude to the international team that worked for 18 days to save them. They also shared their sadness over the loss of former Thai Navy Seal Samarn Kunan who died during one of the operations.
“We feel really sorry, he was very brave. When we heard he had died, everyone was shocked. We couldn’t believe it had happened, everybody was sad,” team coach Ekapol Chantawong said.
Almost a month after their ordeal began, the boys can now finally go back to their homes and families. It was a rescue that captured the world’s attention and succeeded against all odds.
Some of the boys have had treatment for pneumonia in hospital, but all are in good health.