The harrowing experience of 12 Thai youth soccer players came to a happy conclusion when rescue workers safely pulled them from the Tham Luang Nang Non cave they became trapped in.
The team made its first public appearance on Wednesday, July 18 and the boys talked about their experience from the moment the cave collapsed to their rescue ten days later. The press conference was held in Chiang Rai and the boys were happy to show off that they were in good health and good spirits.
I'm really happy they are healthy and went home to their families now. Always bring food/water in all situations just in case of any emergency when hiking anywhere.
— Tech/Dancer/Photog (@skybits) July 18, 2018
Bless them…let us all be grateful and work together to make the world a better place to live,we should all focus on doing good things and helping one another…
— Jane Younger (@JaneYounger1) July 18, 2018
During the conference, 25-year-old coach Ekapol Chantawong finally answered the question of “why” they had even entered the cave. While it was speculated that an initiation rite had been the cause, Chantawong explains it was simple curiosity.
Praise God for this miracle that saved the Thai young men and their coach. All alive and well!
— S McDon (@mcdon_s) July 18, 2018
They explored the cave for about an hour before deciding to turn back. When they turned back to the entrance, they found themselves trapped by flooding. Hoping to find another way out, they moved deeper into the cave and were met with perilous conditions.
“The water went up to my shoulders,” Chantawong explained, speaking on sections of the cave that were flooded with water.
The coach did his best to keep his team inspired. He told them “to fight and not be defeated,” even as hours turned into days. As the team recalls, they had no food or water. Eleven-year-old Chanin Vibulrungruang explained during the conference, “I felt weak and very hungry. I drank water to make me full.”
This is such good news! I'm so incredibly happy for you all and thankful to God for your safe rescue. Best wishes to you all!
— Jacqueline (@UniquelyEwe) July 18, 2018
When it was clear how dire their situation was, the boys started to dig into the cave walls. “I could dig [10 to 13 feet] with rocks to find a way out,” Chanin said.
Chantawong knew digging was futile and advised the boys to stop and conserve their energy. By day ten, it would have been easy to give up, but then the team heard it – a voice speaking in English.
Sometimes planning, execution, & luck have a surreal ability to come together, producing wondrous results.
— Pradyut V. Hande (@HandesUp) July 13, 2018
A pair of British divers approached the team as part of a search-and-rescue mission. Finally, their ordeal would come to an end. Fourteen-year-old Adun Sam-On recalls the moment the divers located the team. He was in such shock that he could only muster a “Hello!”
As the rescue took some time, members of the Thai Navy SEALS sat with the boys and played checkers until the decision was made to extract the boys via the floodwaters.
Though the conference was generally jovial, the mood shifted when the team discussed Lt. Col. Saman Gunan, the retired SEAL that died during the rescue mission. “I would like to express our condolences and hope you rest in peace,” Chanin said, reading from a message he wrote on a drawing to Gunan. “Thank you very much for your sacrifice and I felt sorry for Lt. Col. Gunan’s family.”
Our hearts go out to the family of the Thai Navy Seal who died during the rescue attempt of the boys. This Seal was truly a brave and dedicated member of the Thai Navy. We cry for the loss of this hero.
— Dennis L Daugherty (@dorkdld1) July 16, 2018
Good news happy for them and their families let’s remember the loss of a hero who lost his life in the rescue efforts
— Jon Johnson (@Johnsonjon1972) July 18, 2018
An amazing story to watch the rescue and know they all made it out. Sad that a life was lost though.
— Kiara (@Azula163) July 18, 2018
Ultimately, the boys walked away with a valuable lesson. “This experience taught me not to live life carelessly,” Pipat Bodhi explained.