If it was a Hollywood movie you wouldn't believe it, but the rescue mission widely seen by experts as nearly impossible has come to a successful end with all 12 boys and their coach now out of the caves.

By Daniel Herborn


Posted on July 11, 2018

The divers and trapped boys have negotiated rising waters, extremely confined spaces and zero visibility to make it out safely. The success of the rescue mission was even more remarkable given that some of the boys could not even swim before they learned to dive inside the caves.

“They are getting forced to do something no kid has ever done before,” rescue team diver Ivan Karadzic told reporters.

“It is not in any way normal for kids to go cave diving at 11.”

Anmar Mirza, National Coordinator of the National Cave Rescue Commission wrote: “The rescue in Thailand is one of the toughest I’ve seen”. Experts were very sceptical the boys could successfully complete a dive that was off the scale in terms of difficulty and pressure.

The effort to rescue the team was truly international with dozens of divers including Thai, British, Australian, Finnish and Danish nationals involved.

Heroes wear sunglasses

The boys are now in a Chiang Rai hospital and have had X-rays and blood tests to gauge their health. Doctors are slowly reintroducing solid foods and so far they have been eating sports gels and pureed food as their bodies recover from a lengthy period of hunger. They have lost weight but are generally as healthy as could be expected.

They also need to wear sunglasses for several days as they readjust to natural light after the darkness of the caves.

They remain quarantined as medical staff determine whether they picked up any infections from the contaminated water and bat droppings inside the cave system.

The boys were trapped in the cave system back on 23 June. They were finally located by British divers on 2 July.

Initially, the rescue team explored a number of other options to rescue the team and feared they may have to remain underground for months until waters receded and they could walk out of the caves. The prospect of monsoon rains intervened however and the authorities were seemingly forced to go ahead with the perilous dive option.

Heroes in a perilous rescue mission

Former Thai Navy Seal Saman Gunan tragically died distributing air canisters for the rescue mission on 6 July. His wife, Waleeporn Gunan, paid an emotional tribute to him.

“I use pride to repress my sadness,” she told the BBC.

“He’s been praised as a hero because of he was. He loved helping others, doing charity work and getting things done.”

Commentators have also applauded the efforts of the team’s 25-year-old coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, who kept the boys calm in gruelling circumstances by teaching them meditation techniques he learned in a Buddhist monastery.

In letters exchanged by rescuers, Chanthawong apologised to the parents of the boys for taking them into the cave system but they replied that they did not blame him.

He was reportedly weak when rescuers found the team as he had given his share of the food to the boys.

The rescue mission has captured international attention

Ever since the boys were trapped in the cave system by a downpour, their plight has been keenly followed both in Thailand and internationally. Updates on the extraordinary rescue mission were consistently the biggest stories in news outlets around the world.

The team’s plight resonated in the world of professional football. Portuguese team Benfica has offered the boys the opportunity to spend an all expenses paid week at its plush training facilities.

“We believe this simple gesture can help these faces recover the joy and smiles that no child should ever lose,” Benfica President Luis Filipe Vieira said in a letter.

Manchester United have also invited the boys to a match at their home ground. FIFA had previously offered the team tickets to the upcoming World Cup Final but they will not be strong enough to make the trip.

Richard Branson and Elon Musk were among many cheering the success of the rescue mission on Twitter.