Meet the heroes of the daring rescue mission that brought 13 Thai soccer players to safety

The heroes of the Thai cave rescue performed nothing short of a miracle.

caption
The heroes of the Thai cave rescue performed nothing short of a miracle.
source
Linh Pham/Getty Images

Thousands of people from around the world gathered in Thailand over the last several weeks to help rescue the Thai soccer team trapped inside a cave.

The boys were discovered in the cave after surviving for 10-days with little food and no shelter, and required a delicate and methodical plan to get them out of the cave safely.

Local military, police, and the Thai Navy SEALs worked alongside thousands of local and international volunteers, divers, doctors, and experts to aid in the urgent rescue mission.

The boys and their 25-year-old coach were finally extracted after a three-day event, which included pumping out massive amounts of water from the cave’s chambers, strategically placing air tanks along a 2.5-mile long passageway, and tightly wrapping the boys so they could be guided out of the cave by tireless divers.

Thai Navy SEALS celebrated the successful mission on their Facebook page, calling the rescue nothing short of miraculous.

Here are the heroes who made the mission possible.


Coach Ekkapol Chantawong

caption
Chantawong (right) and the boys inside the cave.
source
Linh Pham/Getty Images

While the 25-year-old coach of the soccer team had apologized for allowing the boys to wander into the cave, he is also credited with helping keep them alive during their 17-day ordeal.

The former monk, referred to as “Coach Ake,” taught his players how to meditate so they could stay calm and conserve energy while they waited to be rescued. Divers found the team meditating when they arrived at the cave.

The coach also gave his food to the children, and remained inside the cave until the very last child had been removed in a tremendous show of leadership.


British divers John Volanthen and Rick Stanton

caption
John Volanthen walks out from the cave in full kit on June 28.
source
Linh Pham

Volanthen, 47, and Stanton, 56, first discovered the boys huddled together on an embankment 2.5 miles inside the cave 10 days after the team had gone missing.

Video emerged showing the powerful moment when rescuers found the boys alive, setting plans to rescue them in motion.

The pair hold the world record for the longest cave penetration dive, and many have called to honor them with the UK’s highest awards of bravery.


Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan

Former Sgt. Saman Kunan, 38, died early on Friday from lack of oxygen while trying to replenish the oxygen tanks in the cave for the impending rescue.

The volunteer diver has been praised as a hero, and reportedly received a royal-sponsored funeral with full honors.

Gunan’s widow and his Thai Navy SEAL colleagues remembered him as a man who loved to do charity work, triathlons, and adventurous sports.


The Thai Navy SEALS

Dozens of Thai Navy SEALs spearheaded the rescue mission to save the boys.

Current and former SEALs worked tirelessly to create a feasible rescue plan, and were crucial in helping communicate with the boys so they could learn to swim and dive before embarking on an hours-long rescue mission.

Some of them even made multiple dives into the cave when it was time to escort the boys out, traveling 5 miles round-trip each time.

The SEALS also gained popularity for their frequent and heart-warming Facebook updates while the mission was underway.


Australian Doctor Richard Harris

caption
Richard Harris.
source
Facebook/ Richard Harris

Harris, 53, has been hailed as “the very best” by former Chiang Rai governor and rescue chief Narongsak Osotanakorn.

“(The Australians) have been a big help, especially the doctor,” Osotanakorn told 9NEWS. “Very good. The best – not good – the very best.”

The Adelaide native was the one who assessed the boys’ health and gave them the green light to participate in the rescue mission.

Harris was also the very last person to come out of the cave on the last day of the rescues, and later found out his father died while he freed the boys.


Chiang Rai governor and rescue chief Narongsak Osotanakorn

caption
Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osot-tanakorn talks to the press at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park to continue the rescue operation on July 4, 2018.
source
Linh Pham/Getty Images

Despite nearing the end of his term as governor of Chiang Rai, Osottanakorn remained the chief of the rescue operation, giving updates to the press twice daily and overseeing operations from the rescue site.


Doctors and nurses at Chiang Rai hospital

caption
Nurses wait outside the Chaingrai Prachanukroh Hospital, where the boys were brought upon rescue.
source
Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images

Dozens of health professionals at Chiang Rai’s hospital are tending to the boys, treating them for low body temperature, lung infections, and malnutrition.

The team of doctors are keeping the team in isolation for a few days while they recover, and videos of the boys smiling from the hospital show they are in good condition.


Thousands of people made the rescues possible.

caption
Rescuers prepare their equipment to enter the cave on June 28.
source
Linh Pham/Getty Images

More than 900 police officers, over 100 divers, and thousands of volunteers were involved in efforts to find and free the boys over 17 days, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Two Thai artists even created a cartoon full of hidden symbols to depict just how diverse the group was that participated in the rescue operation.


Countless volunteers worked long hours at the cave site to support those involved in the mission.

source
Linh Pham/Getty Images

They handed out goods and ensured that anxious families of the boys trapped inside the cave were cared for.


They gave out free haircuts.

source
Linh Pham/Getty Images

And prepared freshly cooked meals for rescuers, journalists, doctors, and family members.

source
Linh Pham/Getty Images

Volunteers and mental health professionals also offered massage and counseling for worried parents.

source
Linh Pham/Getty Images

A water pump company even lent their services for free.

source
Linh Pham/Getty Images

“Our hearts drew us here,” said Thawatchai Fuengkachorn, leader of the Great Naga Water Pump team that ran massive water pumps 24/7 to drain the caves and ensure a successful rescue.


The rescue was truly an international effort.

source
Linh Pham/Getty Images

Volunteers from China, Australia, US, UK, Israel, Sweden, Myanmar, Japan, and Laos made the mission possible.

Even Elon Musk contributed to the heroic mission’s success.