Boys rescued from Thailand cave speak for 1st time

Written by on July 18, 2018

Linh Pham/Getty Images(CHIANG RAI, Thailand) — The 12 soccer players and their coach who were rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand made their first public appearance Wednesday, smiling and waving and sharing details of their frightening ordeal.

Ekapol Chanthawong, the 25-year-old coach who led the boys into the Tham Luang Nang Non cave, immediately wanted to set the record straight.

“Yes, we all can swim,” he said.

One of the boys called it a “miracle moment” when two British divers discovered them.

“Then he asked, ‘How are you’ and I responded, ‘We’re fine,'” Pipat Bodhi, 15, said.

Officials released the team from Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital at about 5 p.m. Wednesday local time.

Their rescue took place over a period of three days last week. The first four boys were taken out of the cave on July 8 in a tandem rescue effort, with one SEAL swimming ahead of the boys and another behind, all the while attached to a tether.

Four more boys were rescued the following day, July 9, and the final four boys and their coach were brought out of the cave on July 10.

The final group had stayed in the cave for 18 days by the time they were saved.

Former provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn told ABC News that as soon as the final boys and coach were taken out of the cave, the main water pump failed and water rushed back into the tunnel. The navy SEALs still inside were forced to abandon oxygen tanks and quickly make an escape.

For having spent over two weeks underground, the boys were in remarkable health from the moment they were rushed to the hospital.

A few of the boys tested positive for minor lung infections, but on the whole, officials said from the beginning the boys were happy and healthy.

As a precaution they were not allowed to eat solid foods, or spicy foods, for their first days in the hospital. Their parents were also forced to view them from afar, and through glass, for two days in order to prevent the spread of infection.

One of the rescuers involved in the search, Saman Kunan, a former Thai navy SEAL, died from a lack of oxygen on July 6. The boys have prayed for the 38-year-old and will become monks for a time as a matter of tribute.

The group has been recovering in the hospital since early last week, when they were rescued from the cave in northern Thailand after surviving without food for more than nine days.

The team, known as the Wild Boars, entered the cave on June 23 as part of a team bonding experience with their coach, Ekkapol “Ake” Chantawong. Unexpected heavy rain flooded the cave while the team was inside, forcing the group farther inside and cutting off any escape routes.

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