The first three days in the cave were the hardest.
On June 23, 12 members of the Wild Boars soccer team — ranging in age from 11 to 16 — and their coach made their way into northern Thailand’s Tham Luang Nang cave for one of their many adventures. Soon, what began as a fun-filled team trip turned into a nightmare.
Tanawut, the father of the youngest survivor told CBS News that the boys, including his son Titan, were only supposed to be in the cave for one hour. However, the team was forced to run deeper into the cave as fast-moving flood waters began to fill the cavern.
The team’s coach, Ekapol “Aek” Chanthawong, attempted to swim to find an exit but was forced to turn around as water continued to flood the cave. Titan reportedly told his father that the first few days in the cave were the hardest, according to CBS. The boys were hungry and sleep-deprived, and Titan cried because he missed his family.
Still, Tanawut told CBS, Aek did all he could to keep the boys calm and safe.
“Coach Aek hugged and encouraged him to be strong,” Tanawut told the publication. “I am touched. If the kids didn’t have Coach Aek, I don’t know how they could’ve survived.”
Officials launched a massive search for the boys last month after a park officer saw the boys’ backpacks, bicycles and soccer cleats abandoned outside the cave, CNN reported. Police said the 12 team members and their coach crawled into the cave through a narrow 15-meter long channel.
British divers John Volanthen and Rick Stanton swam through the cave’s murky waters, finding the boys and their coach some three miles from the cave’s entrance, according to the New York Times. The first four boys were finally pulled from the cave on Sunday. And the rest were freed by Tuesday.
“I still can’t believe it worked,” Maj. Gen. Chalongchai Chaiyakham, Third Army region deputy commander, said of the rescue, according to the Times.
Due to the dangerous circumstances — high flood waters, mud, and cold temperatures — rescue officials had to sedate the boys for the trip through the waters and out of the cave, British caver Vern Unsworth told CNN.
“It was the only way,” Unsworth said. “Some of these kids couldn’t swim and they’d been put into cold water with wetsuits on and full face mask, [which is] alien to them.”
Officials told the Times that all of the children have received vaccinations and are being treated for antibiotics. Two of them may have pneumonia, Jesada Chokedamrongsuk, Thailand’s secretary for public health, told the publication.
The boys are now recovering in isolation at the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital. Recent footage of the children, shown for the first time since their rescue, featured the boys sitting up in their hospital beds with masks over their faces.
“The boys are in quarantine for a week or so,” Rivers said. “Parents could be allowed into the room in the coming days while wearing special protective clothing.”
British divers spoke of the ordeal on Friday during a news conference in London.
“There was a lot of chaos,” one diver said, according to CBS. “But we were so task-oriented and focused we sort of blanked that out, and carried on with the job at hand, step by step until we achieved success.”