- Linh Pham/Getty Images; Samantha Lee/Business Insider
- All 12 members of a Thai soccer team and their coach have been rescued from a cave where they were stranded by floodwater.
- Rescue operations began Sunday, and by Tuesday evening everybody had been taken out alive.
- Thai authorities held a celebratory press conference where they said, “We have done what others thought was impossible.”
- They also paid tribute to Saman Kunan, the retired Navy SEAL who died after volunteering to aid in efforts to supply the cave with air.
After surviving 17 days inside a flooded cave in northern Thailand, the final members of a Thai boys soccer team and their coach were rescued Tuesday.
The final five stranded members of the team – four boys and their coach – were helped out by rescue divers on Tuesday evening local time, ending a three-day rescue operation.
The third day saw the rescues run quicker and more smoothly than ever before. The total turnaround for the final five was about 8 hours, 30 minutes.
The Thai navy confirmed that the rescue was complete followed by the slogan “Hooyah.”
All 12 boys and the coach were taken straight to a hospital from the mouth of the cave in Thailand’s Chiang Rai province, near the Myanmar border.
The last of the boys to leave the cave were followed hours later by rescue divers and medics, who had stayed in the cave to dismantle the apparatus of the mission.
At about 9:30 p.m. local time, authorities held a press conference in which they confirmed that everybody was out and celebrated “mission accomplished.”
Big applause for Governor. He’s announced “mission complete”, and says the Australian doctor and Navy Seals who helped the kids/coach will be out of the cave in 15 mins. #ThamLuangCave #TenNews pic.twitter.com/SZd9645iry
— Daniel Sutton (@danielsutton10) July 10, 2018
At the celebratory press conference, the mission’s leader, Narongsak Osatanakorn, also paid tribute to Saman Kunan, the retired Thai Navy SEAL who died on a volunteer mission to get oxygen to the stranded team members.
After having already spent two weeks in the cave, the boys and their coach were led out a few at a time over three days for a distance of about 2 1/2 miles, about 0.6 miles of which was underwater.
They were led through the dark cave by lamps and torchlight, putting on full face masks linked to oxygen tanks to breathe while navigating tight spaces.
This diagram shows how the rescuers helped the Thai boys out, two divers to a boy:
- Samantha Lee/Business Insider
Before going underwater, the boys were given anti-anxiety pills to calm their nerves while swimming. They all had to be taught how to dive – and some had to be taught how to swim – before leaving.
After each boy left the cave, he was taken straight to a hospital. The boys face a long recovery, which is estimated to take more than a week.
While in the hospital they will be in quarantine and have a limited diet. Initially they will need to wear sunglasses to protect their weakened eyes from natural light. You can read more about their recovery here.
- REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
The leader of the rescue operations, Narongsak, had told a press conference earlier Tuesday that the mission, which he said began at 10:08 a.m. local time, was expected to conclude by the end of the day.
“Today we might have to wait longer, but it will be worth the wait,” he told reporters.
- Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images
Narongsak said officials did not want to waste time because of intensifying rain that could halt rescue efforts.
“Water levels are the same like the last two days,” he said.
At least 19 divers were involved in the mission to bring the last four boys and their coach to safety.
The boys, ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach went missing on June 23 while exploring the caves. They were dry when they entered, but while inside the caves were hit by a flash flood, which trapped the team there.
They were first discovered alive nine days later, about 2 1/2 miles into the system of caves, cold and weak from lack of food or shelter.
- Shayanne Gal/Business Insider
Rescuers spent several days bringing supplies to the team, building up the players’ and coach’s strength and assessing their options.
The rescue missions began Sunday after officials judged that time was short because of approaching monsoon rains and depleting oxygen levels inside the cave.
The audacious rescue was fraught with risk, but every boy managed to make it out safely.
Journalists present at the press conference Tuesday evening reported that Narongsak concluded by saying, “We have done what others thought was impossible.”