Just days after guiding the Wild Boars youth soccer team out of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province, the Thai Navy SEALs have released video of the harrowing rescue mission.
On Wednesday, just one day after successfully completing the rescue mission, Thai Navy SEALs released a video on their Facebook page showing exactly how all 12 boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach were ushered to safety after more than two weeks trapped deep within a cave.
The rescue mission began after the youth soccer team became trapped when heavy rainfall flooded the cave system on June 23. Their bikes were found near the entrance of the cave and footprints suggested that they had been forced deeper into the maze of tunnels when monsoon rains began to fall.
On Monday, July 2, nine days after becoming trapped, a group of divers found the boys 600 yards away from Pattaya Beach, an elevated rock mound within the cave system that is oftentimes used by those inside the cave when flooding occurs. Their discovery immediately prompted discussions on how to get them out, with initial reports suggesting that the safest way to rescue the team was to wait out the rainy season, which lasts until October, and guide them out once the flooded tunnels had dried. That ultimately proved not to be an option when oxygen levels within the tunnels dropped to dangerous levels.
As a group consisting of a medic and several Navy SEALs remained within the cave with the boys, teaching them how to swim and dive and fitting them with SCUBA gear, the mission to bring them out officially began on Sunday, July 8. Although it was originally reported that the boys had swum out on their own, tethered and guided by divers, the video posted by the Thai Navy SEALs shows the boys being carried through the cave system on stretchers.
"Some of them were asleep, some of them were wiggling their fingers... (as if) groggy, but they were breathing," Commander Chaiyananta Peeranarong told AFP after it was announced that the boys had been given anti-anxiety medication to keep them from panicking during the rescue operation. "My job was to transfer them along. The boys were wrapped up in stretchers already when they were being transferred."
All 12 boys and their coach were guided out of the cave by Tuesday in a rescue operation that spanned three days and an ordeal that lasted more than two weeks. They are currently recovering at a hospital in Chiang Rai, where they are being quarantined due to weakened immune systems and fear that they could easily catch an infection or develop "cave disease," an infection in the lungs caused by Histoplasma fungus.