Thai cave rescue: Boys were drugged during extraction

By @chelean on
Thai soccer team cave
Boys rescued from the Thai cave wear masks and rest at a hospital in Chiang Rai, Thailand in this still image taken from a July 11, 2018 handout video. Government Public Relations Department (PRD) and Government Spokesman Bureau/Handout via REUTERS TV

The Thai boys who were trapped in a cave were sedated as they were being rescued out of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave network. The 12 boys, aged 11 to 17, were reportedly given anti-anxiety drug to stop them from panicking during the perilous mission.

The boys and their coach were rescued in a span of three missions from Sunday to Tuesday. The underground cave system was terrifying and unsafe even for experienced divers. It was originally planned that they would be extracted after a wait for at least three months, until the monsoon season passed. And as none of the boys knew how to swim, it was a doubly dangerous mission to remove them from the cave.

In a video that has since been deleted from the Thai Navy SEAL Facebook page, the boys were seen wrapped in foil blankets as they lay motionless on a plastic cradle. They were passed along a chain of rescuers, who led their precious cargo into a series of dark and narrow passages. One boy could be seen waving his hand slightly, indicating that he was not totally unconscious.

It was not mentioned if the 25-year-old soccer coach, who was stranded with the boys in the cave, was also sedated. It was previously thought that the boys would be swimming and diving along with the experienced divers.

The rescuers, a joint team of local and international divers, guided the youngsters out of the cave in hours-long missions. Some of them revealed to the Daily Mail that the boys were given sedative to prevent them from panicking in the middle of the mission.

“I was told the boys were given a dose of ketamine [a horse tranquiliser often used as a recreational drug] to keep them calm,” a British diver involved in the mission told the paper.

“The boys were sedated — they were unconscious,” Spanish diver Fernando Raigal also said.

Thai navy commander Chaiyananta Peeranarong said some of the boys were asleep, while others were “groggy” during the rescue mission.

Authorities apparently denied that the children were drugged while they were being extracted from the cave. But according to the Mail, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha also admitted that they were given sedative. He denied, however, the claim that the boys were unconscious.

Meanwhile, the boys are recuperating well in an isolation ward at a hospital in Chiang Rai province. In the photos released on Wednesday, the group appeared to be in good spirits as they showed two-finger peace signs and waved to the camera. Because they are in isolation, their parents and family can only visit them when wearing protective suits and standing two metres away from them, the ABC reports.

A screen grab shows people looking through glass at the boys rescued from the Thai cave at a hospital in Chiang Rai, Thailand from a July 11, 2018 handout video A screen grab shows people looking through glass at the boys rescued from the Thai cave at a hospital in Chiang Rai, Thailand from a July 11, 2018 handout video  Government Public Relations Department (PRD) and Government Spokesman Bureau/Handout via REUTERS TV Thai soccer team cave A screen grab shows boys rescued from the Thai cave wearing mask and resting in a hospital in Chiang Rai, Thailand from a July 11, 2018 handout video.  Government Public Relations Department (PRD) and Government Spokesman Bureau/Handout via REUTERS TV

“From our assessment, they are in good condition and not stressed. The children were well taken care of in the cave. Most of the boys lost an average of 2 kilograms,” Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong, inspector for Thailand’s health department, said.

Watch how the operation unfolded, from the discovery of the missing boys to the preparation of their extraction: