Thai cave boys speak of being trapped in cave

By @chelean on
  • Duangpetch Promthep introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 18, 2018.
    Duangpetch Promthep introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 18, 2018. Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
  • Chanin Vibul Rungruang, 11, introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 18, 2018.
    Chanin Vibul Rungruang, 11, introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 18, 2018. Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
  • Pornchai Khamluang introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 18, 2018.
    Pornchai Khamluang introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 18, 2018. Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
  • Adul Sam-On, 14, introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 18, 2018.
    Adul Sam-On, 14, introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 18, 2018. Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
  • Peerapat Sompiangjai, 16, introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 18, 2018.
    Peerapat Sompiangjai, 16, introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 18, 2018. Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
  • Prajak Sutham, 14, introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 18, 2018.
    Prajak Sutham, 14, introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 18, 2018. Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
  • Nattawut Thakamsong, 14, introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 18, 2018.
    Nattawut Thakamsong, 14, introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 18, 2018. Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
  • Panumas Sangdee introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 18, 2018.
    Panumas Sangdee introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 18, 2018. Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
  • Somepong Jaiwong, 13, introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 18, 2018.
    Somepong Jaiwong, 13, introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 18, 2018. Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
  • Mongkol Booniam introduces himself during the news conference in  Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 18, 2018.
    Mongkol Booniam introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 18, 2018. Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
  • Pipat Bhodi, 15, introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 18, 2018.
    Pipat Bhodi, 15, introduces himself during the news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 18, 2018. Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
  • 12 soccer players and their coach
    Coach Ekapol Chantawong introduces himself during the news conference in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 18, 2018. Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
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The Wild Boars have been released from the hospital. The rescued Thai soccer team and their coach were in good spirit as they described to the press their ordeal inside the Tham Luang cave in the Chiang Rai province of Thailand on Wednesday.

In their first public appearance since they were rescued from July 8 to 10, the boys, wearing shirts emblazoned with their team name, faced reporters on Wednesday to talk about how they ended up trapped inside the underground cave network, what they did during the nine days that they were missing and what they felt when they were eventually found.

Going to the cave

Their 25-year-old soccer coach, Ekkapol “Ake” Chantawong, has explained why the team went to the cave in the first place. He said that after a football session on June 23, the group decided to visit the Tham Luang caves to sightsee. Some of them had been in the area before, but they wanted to go there to study the area so next time they could have a proper trip there.

They saw a couple of pools of water and went further. They were aware they had to go back before 5 p.m. because one of their members, Phiraphat “Night” Somphiangchai, had to get home for his own birthday party.

They only planned to stay for an hour, but when they tried to leave, they realised they were trapped. They became confused when they found more water when they didn’t encounter those before. It turned out the water had quickly risen, and so even if the group tried to find a way out, they were couldn’t leave. They tried to dig a passageway for the water to flow through but that was futile.

They decided to explore the cave further for exits. As it was already nightfall, they just decided to find a place to sleep. They prayed for the water to recede before they went to sleep.

No escape, no help

It was on their second day inside the cave when they started to feel weak from hunger. They tried to conserve their flashlight, only using it “sparingly.” They drank water from the stalactites in the cave to stay alive.

“I fainted. I had no energy and was very hungry,” the youngest, Chanin “Titan” Vibulrungruang, said. “I tried not to think about food because it would make me hungry.

Although Titan was describing a bleak scene, he related his experience with a smile and then a laugh, with his teammates joining him. It was proof that the Wild Boars boys’ spirit wasn’t crushed during their ordeal.

The boys felt they needed to do more than just wait for rescue. They started to dig at the cave walls, using stones to puncture the walls. To help pass the time, they played checkers together.

First contact with rescuers

By the time they were found on July 2, they had already spent nine days inside the cave. It was in the evening when British cave diving experts Richard Stanton and John Volanthen found the boys. Multilingual Adul Sam-on, 14, was the only member of the group who spoke English. He described being discovered as a “miracle.”

“I was stunned because they were English, so I said ‘hello,’” he said (via BBC). “They asked, ‘how are you?’ So I said I am okay. I asked if they wanted any help. And they said no and told me to go back up. Then he said, ‘how many of you?’”

12 soccer players and their coach People react as the 12 soccer players and their coach who were rescued from a flooded cave arrive for their news conference in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 18, 2018.  Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun 12 soccer players and their coach The boys and their soccer coach rescued from a flooded cave play soccer as they arrive for their news conference in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 18, 2018.  Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

The boys were eventually joined by rescuers, including Australian anaesthesiologist Richard Harris, while a group of local and international experts desperately tried to think of a safe way to get them out.

They were rescued from July 8 to 10.

The boys’ reaction on the death of Saman Kunan

While at the hospital recuperating, the boys were told of the death of former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan, who died of asphyxiation upon his return to the cave entrance on July 6. He delivered tanks of oxygen to the trapped boys but ran out of air as he was going back.

A 'Wild Boars' soccer player holds a portrait of former Navy SEAL diver Saman Kunan A 'Wild Boars' soccer player holds a portrait of former Navy SEAL diver Saman Kunan, who died during the rescue operation, as they pay respect during their news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 18, 2018.  Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

“They felt like they were the reason he had to die and his family had to suffer,” Ake said, saying the boys cried upon hearing the news. “Saman sacrificed his life to save us, so that we could go and live our lives.”

Ake, who was a former monk himself, said the boys would spend time as novice Buddhist monks to honour the fallen diver’s memory. Several of the boys also said they wanted to be Navy SEALs one day.

Saying sorry to their parents

On the day that they got lost, some of the boys only told their parents that they had soccer practice. They didn’t tell them they were going to the cave. One of the boys said he told his parents the wrong cave.

“I want to say sorry to my parents,” one of the boys said. This was the common sentiment among the boys, that they wanted to say sorry to their parents.

12 soccer players and their coach The 12 boys and their soccer coach who were rescued from a flooded cave arrive for a news conference in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 18, 2018.  Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

Out of media attention

Chiang Rai governor Prachon Pratsukan said the press conference would be their only official media interview. The boys wouldn’t be speaking with the press after it. Psychiatrists have also advised their families not to let the media contact the boys for at least a month.

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