Thailand Boys Recount Their Ordeal in Cave
The 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach who spent more than two weeks trapped in a flooded cave were discharged from the hospital and recounted their ordeal Wednesday, describing how they tried to dig their way out at one point and subsisted on water seeping from the cave roof.
The plight of the team and the extraordinary, multinational effort to save them captured the world’s imagination, and their first media appearance helped answer some of the questions about their first days in the cave before their location was identified. The questions at the news conference were submitted in advance by journalists and vetted by a child psychologist. Approved questions were then asked by a moderator.
The 25-year-old coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, said that several days in they decided to try to dig part of the way out, reasoning that they had to do more than wait for authorities to rescue them. He said they took turns digging at the cave walls.
“We didn’t want to wait around until the authorities found us,” he said.
One of the boys, 14-year-old Ekarat Wongsookchan, said, “I was really afraid I wouldn’t be able to go home.”
The players on the Wild Boars youth team entered the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand on June 23 before being trapped by a flash flood that surged through the network of caverns. They spent nearly 10 days alone, subsisting on a few snacks they brought inside and carefully rationing the use of the flashlights before being found by two British rescue divers.
News that the boys were still alive launched plans for an elaborate and hazardous rescue mission. Teams of geologists scoured for alternative entrances to the cave, while Thai authorities prepared for the possibility that the boys might have to stay inside until the end of the rainy season in November.
Bringing them out through the submerged cave was deemed especially difficult. One former Thai Navy SEAL died after running out of air in the disorienting environment, emphasizing the dangers of a mission that included divers from Australia, Britain, Belgium, the U.S. and elsewhere.
With monsoon rains threatening further flooding, rescue coordinators gave the go-ahead July 8 to begin bringing the boys out in groups of four, with each child sedated and accompanied by two divers.
The last group of boys and their coach emerged from the cave on the third day, shortly before a pump pipeline broke, pushing water levels sharply higher.
After appearing before the media to answer carefully vetted questions under the supervision of doctors, the boys left to be reunited with their families.