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Last of Thai soccer team rescued from cave

Last of Thai soccer team rescued from cave

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In a search and rescue scramble that gripped the world’s attention for more than two weeks, the last of 12 Thai youth soccer players and their coach are safely rescued and transported to a local hospital on July 10, 2018.

On June 23, 2018, Ekkapol Chantawong, 25, and his players, who ranged in age from 11-16, set out to explore the Tham Luang cave network in what was intended to be a fun, hour-long, after-practice adventure when they were trapped underground as monsoon rains flooded the cave’s entrance.

A search for the Wild Boars teammates and their coach took nine days, when two elite British divers located the group on July 2, 2018, approximately 2.5 miles from the cave’s entrance. They were alive but malnourished, exhausted and running out of oxygen, and the dangerous, tight and twisting passageways, with strong currents, made getting the team out a logistical nightmare.

After efforts to drain the cave, considerations of waiting it out for monsoon season to end in four months and teaching the team to swim and scuba dive, one thing became certain: They would have to go underwater in scuba gear to escape.

On July 8, the first four boys were led out of the cave by an international team of cave diving experts including Thai Navy SEALS, attached to the divers with ropes and harnesses. On July 9, four more boys are rescued and on July 10, the remaining four boys and coach are rescued after spending 17 days in the cave. The boys were sedated with the drug ketamine during the daring rescue and wore wet suits and full face masks to provide oxygen. All were all released from the hospital one week later.

The event resulted in one fatality: A volunteer diver and former Thai Navy SEAL, Saman Kunan, 38, died July 6, when he ran out of oxygen underwater while attempting to deliver oxygen tanks to the boys.

Thai cave rescue diver John Volanthen: ‘I was overjoyed not having to tell parents I’m sorry for your loss’

The diver John Volanthen had prepared himself for the very worst. The Tham Luang caves, which 12 Thai schoolboys and their football coach had entered for an excursion to celebrate one of their birthdays had become an underground river – complete with rapids – thanks to an unexpected storm, and Volanthen was about to embark on a rescue mission.

“I visualised swimming into a tunnel choked with what looked like discarded plastic bags, ragged clothing and shoes, only to realise it was an underwater morgue,” recalls Volanthen.

The terrifying predicament of the Wild Boars team became a news story that gripped the world in June 2018. Volanthen and his diving partner, Rick Stanton – who together held the record for the greatest depth recorded in a British cave, 76m – humbly offered their services.

Your guide to what to watch next - no spoilers, we promise

The subsequent fortnight was a whirlwind. The “two middle-aged blokes from England” were welcomed at the Chiang Rai airport with a banner that read: “The World’s Best Cave Divers.”

Simultaneously, they were snubbed by the Thai authorities, who thought so little of their expertise that they were given one double-bed to share, top and tail, in between gruelling recces of the flooded caves.

Billionaire Elon Musk was phoning up with his own hare-brained ideas while the team was being inundated with suggestions from the public. The most farcical involved feeding the children through a mile of plastic tubing that would have inevitably collapsed, “trapping everybody in much the same way a skin binds the sausage meat in a pork banger”.

Hence the name the rescuers came up for it: “The Great Sausage Plan.”

Thankfully Volanthen had a better idea.

“Hands down, the most surreal moment was finding all 13 of the Wild Boars alive”, he tells i on a video call from his home outside Bristol.

The camp of Thai Navy Seals, US military and Australian police divers had virtually given up hope of retrieving the group from the ninth chamber of the underwater maze before the two British volunteers made the breakthrough, 10 days in, counting the 13 awestruck faces with their flashlight.

“There’s a moment where I’m saying ‘believe!’ and I’m telling myself as much as anyone else because I simply can’t believe it.”

The 49-year-old has weaved the miraculous story around his very own rules for living in a new book, Thirteen Lessons That Saved Thirteen Lives. They include starting with “why not?” (how to ignore the inner critic) and listening to the “quiet voice” (knowing when to stop).

Finding the boys, aged 11 to 17, was the easy part, compared with getting them out alive. They had to be sedated with an injection of ketamine so they would not panic mid-rescue.

The divers then had the heartstopping job of holding the head of each unconscious child underwater to look for the bubbles that meant they were still breathing.

Volanthen, the bespectacled Cub leader who fell in love with cave diving himself as a 14-year-old Scout, is the unlikely hero from central casting – as he says, “more Clark Kent than Superman”.

When he returned to Heathrow, having played a key role in the rescue of all 13, he was wearing his only remaining clean clothing, an old Shaun The Sheep T-shirt, and made a statement to the waiting press pack.

Not even allowing himself a smile, and as if presenting some company accounts, he stated in a monotone: “The results speak for themselves.” He was back at his desk, running his IT company, later the same day.

Volanthen, who can fall asleep underwater and is “always on standby for the next rescue”, has since shunned the limelight. He takes issue with my wording when I ask what “ordinary people” can learn from his book: “I don’t think in any way that I’m not ordinary, in the same way that I don’t think you’re not special.”

He turned down publishers who wanted an autobiography (“that, again, to me is a little bit egotistical”). This is one of his first interviews.

Indeed, his mother and old Scout leader have appeared on the This Morning sofa more than he has. He was reunited with the boys at the Pride of Britain awards, but warned producers that if they ambushed him with a “photo-op reunion” – “I would very much walk off it.” He has not stayed in touch with any of the Wild Boars: “The last thing I would want is for them or their parents to feel beholden to anyone.”

Volanthen has co-operated with an upcoming film of the rescue, Thirteen Lives, in which he will be played by Colin Farrell. But he declined an invitation to visit the shoot in Australia, in favour of home-schooling his 14-year-old son, Matthew, through the pandemic.

Farrell has had to make do with Zooms to absorb Volanthen’s speaking style, mannerisms and wardrobe. “He’s been made to wear Crocs and I don’t think he was very impressed.”

However, a scattering of Hollywood stardust does not even come close to the real highlight of the experience.

“Across the entire rescue, the thing that I took most joy in was being able to meet the parents and not have to say, ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’ I appreciate that is quite a negative thing, but I don’t think anything will eclipse that.”

Thirteen Lessons That Saved Thirteen Lives by John Volanthen (£20, Aurum) is released on 1 June

Diver Who Helped Save Thai Soccer Team Rescued After Disappearing in Underwater Tennessee Cave

One of the divers who successfully helped evacuate a youth soccer team and their coach from a flooded Thailand cave over the summer required a rescue mission of his own after he went missing in a similar underground enclosure in Tennessee.

British rescue diver Josh Bratchley had been exploring the Mill Pond Cave in Northern Tennessee with a group over the last few days but did not return when they all resurfaced on Tuesday evening.

After a day-long rescue mission, Bratchley was found late Wednesday, Jackson County Emergency Management Agency’s Public Information Officer Ethan Burris confirmed to PEOPLE.

𠇊t approximately 6:00 p.m. a specially trained cave diver entered the water to search for the trapped tourist. At approximately 6:58 p.m., the cave diver successfully rescued the trapped diver,” Burris said. �ter the diver was rescued and brought out of the water, he stated that he was fine.”

“He was then evaluated by medical crews on scene and found to be stable,” Burris continued. “He has refused medical treatment and transport.”

Bratchley was said to be found inside an 𠇊ir bell” in the cave, which is an enclosed space between the cave’s roof and the water surface that luckily contained enough air for the diver to survive, ABC News reports.

Despite the traumatic experience, British Cave Rescue Council’s Vice Chairman Bill Whitehouse told the news outlet that the diver is currently in “good health and good spirits.”

Speaking to PEOPLE, Whitehouse also noted that the British Cave Rescue Council was “relieved” to hear that Bratchley was found alive.

𠇊ll Josh’s friends in the BCRC are delighted and relieved that he is safely out of the cave and we are very grateful for the excellent job done by the local rescue team in Tennessee,” he said.

Bratchley and the group of five experienced British divers had initially traveled to the U.S. to explore the cave, which can only be entered underwater, over the course of a few days, according to ABC News.

The team first noticed that Bratchley went missing between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. local time on Tuesday. After unsuccessfully searching for him for hours, the team called 911 at 1:17 a.m. early Wednesday, the outlet reports.

While professional divers and crews worked to locate Bratchley in Mill Pond Cave throughout the day, a U.S. rescue team with trained divers from Arkansas and Florida were on their way to help with the search mission.

Because Bratchley was experienced, he was able to find an air bell that was large enough for him to climb into until he was rescued later Wednesday evening, ABC News reports.

Bratchley was one of the 19 divers who assisted in the three-day rescue of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach in Thailand last July.

Entire Thai soccer team, coach freed from cave after daring rescue, Navy says

Thai Navy SEALS report that all 12 members of the team and the coach are out of the cave while four rescuers remain inside.

The dramatic three-day rescue of a Thai youth soccer team that had been stuck in a flooded cave came to an end Tuesday when the last boy and the team's coach were plucked from the underground cavern -- more than two weeks after they became trapped, Navy officials said.

The Thai Navy SEALS said on Facebook all 12 boys from the team and the team's coach were out of the cave. Four rescuers, a doctor and three Navy SEALS remained inside until coming out of the cave two hours later.

"All 12 Wild Boars and coach have been extracted from the cave. Hooyah!" the post said. The Navy SEALS later wrote: "We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave."

Earlier in the day, local Thai media reports stated the 11th person emerged from the cave after two other people had been rescued. The conditions of all of those who were saved on Tuesday were unclear.

Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said Tuesday's intricate and high-risk operation began just after 10 a.m. and involved 19 divers.

"We did something nobody thought possible," he said during a brief news conference after the rescue was complete.

This photo tweeted by Elon Musk shows efforts underway to rescue trapped members of a youth soccer team from a flooded cave in northern Thailand. (Courtesy of Elon Musk via AP)

Cheers and applause were reported in the streets as the final ambulance arrived at a hospital in Chiang Rai city. Payap Maiming, 40, who helped provide food and necessities to rescue workers and journalists, told the Associated Press a "miracle" had happened.

"I'm happy for Thais all over the country, for the people of Mae Sai, and actually just everyone in the world because every news channel has presented this story and this is what we have been waiting for," she said. Mae Sai is the district where the cave is located, in the northern part of Chiang Rai province, near the border with Myanmar.

"It's really a miracle," Payap said. "It's hope and faith that has brought us this success."

Before the final rescue of the group, there was optimism that the dive team was getting more efficient in their attempts. They successfully extracted the second group of four a full two hours faster than the first, officials said.

"Two days, eight Boars," read an earlier Facebook post by the Thai navy SEALS about the operation at the Tham Luan Nang Non cave that began Sunday, more than two weeks after the Wild Boars soccer team became trapped.

SpaceX and Tesla head Elon Musk, who visited the cave, released photos of the situation on Twitter, and said his high-tech submarine was ready to help if needed.

"Just returned from Cave 3. Mini-sub is ready if needed," Musk tweeted. "It is made of rocket parts & named Wild Boar after kids’ soccer team. Leaving here in case it may be useful in the future. Thailand is so beautiful."

But despite his offer to help, the Thai rescue chief said it would be of little use for the rescue of the boys, according to Sky News.

"Although his technology is good and sophisticated it’s not practical for this mission,” Narongsak said.

The divers began the third phase of the operation at 10 a.m. Tuseday local time to bring the remaining boys and their 25-year-old coach out of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province.

The boy's families were being kept at a distance at a hospital because of fears of infection and the emaciated-looking boys were eating a rice-based porridge because they were still too weak to take regular food, authorities said.

Rescue operations have required two divers to go out with each boy through the cave.

At a news conference on Tuesday morning, officials said the second group of four boys brought out Monday are healthy, and that there are no bats inside the cave so there are no animals that can transit any diseases.

Jesada Chokdumrongsuk, deputy director-general of the Public Health Ministry, said Tuesday that the first four boys rescued, aged 12 to 16, are now able to eat normal food. He added that two of them possibly have a lung infection but all eight are generally "healthy and smiling," and "the kids are footballers so they have high immune systems."

The second group of four rescued on Monday are aged 12 to 14, and all are in "high spirits," he added.

Thai cave: Entire soccer team rescued

Thailand: All 12 soccer players and their coach are out of the cave after 17-day race against deteriorating weather.

Doctors are expecting to keep the boys in the hospital for at least 7 days, and said there are no complications with the boy's eyesight despite spending multiple days in the dark.

The parents of the first group of boys rescued on Sunday have visited their children through glass windows, as doctors continue to keep them "isolated" as they ensure they are healthy. The group has been vaccinated and given vitamin B1 and IV drips, according to officials.

Throughout the daring rescue, there was the risk of monsoon rains rising water in the cave endangering the team's dry refuge and making the escape route too treacherous.

A Thai well wisher puts a poster to pray for boys and their soccer coach. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

The plight of the boys, aged 11-16, and their coach, has riveted Thailand and much of the world -- from the heart-sinking news they were missing to the first flickering video of the huddle of anxious yet smiling boys once they were found by the pair of British divers deep in the sprawling cave.

President Trump congratulated the Thai navy SEALs and their international partners who rescued the team and their coach after more than two weeks of entrapment in a cave.

"On behalf of the United States, congratulations to the Thai Navy SEALs and all on the successful rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from the treacherous cave in Thailand," he wrote on Twitter. "Such a beautiful moment - all freed, great job!"

Writing in elegant Thai script, the boys urged their parents not to worry, adding that they hoped they wouldn't get too much homework after being rescued and couldn't wait to eat their favorite foods again.

Thailand's prime minister said Tuesday that increased security will be introduced at the cave made "world famous" by this week's heroic rescue operation, Sky News reported.

Rescuers walk toward the entrance to a cave complex where five were still trapped, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

"In future, we have to monitor the entrance and exit to the cave. This cave has become world famous," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said. "We have to install more lights inside the cave and put up signs. It's a dangerous cave."

All preparations of the rescue, including replacing the oxygen cylinders positioned along the route out in the cave, take at least 20 hours, officials said. The safety of the divers, who have meticulously planned the mission, is also paramount. One diver died during preparations for the boys' extraction.

Fox News' Jeff Paul and Melissa Chrise in Chiang Rai, Thailand, and The Associated Press contributed to this report

The untold story of the daring cave divers who saved the Thai soccer team

Racing against rising waters, an elite group assembled from across the globe pulled off a harrowing rescue of 12 boys and their coach a mile and a half underground.

Last summer, a few days after a boys soccer team went missing in Thailand's fourth longest cave system, cell phones began lighting up around the world like modern-day Bat Signals. One belonged to a former fireman from Coventry, England. Another to an IT consultant 80 miles away in Bristol. There was a retired veterinarian from Perth, Australia, and an anesthesiologist from Adelaide. They were your average middle-aged professionals, largely from Britain, who had one very unique skill set in common—they were among the best cave divers in the world.

The phone calls were short and to the point, no time for long debriefings. The Tham Luang cave was flooding fast, and soon the monsoon would begin, sealing the 12 boys, aged 11 to 17, and their coach in a watery tomb. The cave divers dropped everything and flew to the Chiang Rai province in northern Thailand to help, joining an international team of technical divers from Thailand, military and rescue divers from the U.S., Australia, and China, and the formidable Thai Navy Seals who were in charge of the search in the midst of a glaring global media spotlight.

"There are probably a few hundred cave divers in the world, but only a very few at that level," says Richard Harris, the Adelaide anesthesiologist (and a National Geographic grantee), who played a pivotal role in the rescue. "The guys on the British team, they are the first guys you call.

Left: An international effort

Right: Rising and Falling Water

The situation at Tham Luang, however, was grim. The Thai Navy Seals, along with a group of European expat technical divers who ran dive shops among Thailand's lush coastal islands were struggling to push past a large cavern that was the at end of the typical tourist route about a half mile inside the cave. One of the boys had mentioned a popular cavern called Pattaya Beach before he disappeared, but that was another half mile deeper inside, and the divers were thwarted by a torrent of muddy water pouring in from that direction. Ben Reymenants, a Belgian expat diver from Phuket, was an early volunteer, and told a reporter it was like "dropping to the bottom of the Colorado River and hand over hand fighting your way upstream."

Because of the extreme lethality of the sport, cave diving rescuers tend to be the undertakers of the caving community, far more accustomed to retrieving dead bodies—at times their friends—than rescuing live ones. British diver John Volanthan, the IT consultant, believed Tham Luang would be no different. He and his diving partner, ex-fireman Richard Stanton, arrived the Wednesday after the boys went missing on Saturday, and slowly, steadily began pulling themselves upstream, fixing heavy climbing rope along the route for others to follow. For the next four days the international divers and the Seals worked 12 to 14 hours in the cave inching their way forward a meter at a time in total darkness, surfacing in each cavern to check for the boys.

Ten days later, the children had still not been found. Some of the rescuers calculated their chance of survival at 10 percent at best. Volanthan and Stanton were determined to go as far as they could that day, using their air supply sparingly. They reached Pattaya Beach. No boys. The kept going, digging into their reserve air supply, and shutting off their tanks when they surfaced to make it last as long as possible. Finally, in the ninth cavern, more than one and a half miles from the entrance, they removed their masks and were assaulted by a foul odor.

"We thought it was decomposing bodies," Volanthan said, until their flickering flashlights revealed the boys gaunt but smiling faces—immortalized in a helmet cam video that soon went viral around the world. You can hear Stanton counting in the background and Volanthan's calm voice saying, "How many are you? 13? Brilliant!"

Seven Thai Navy Seals, including a doctor, struggled to reach the kids the next day with food and medical supplies and began trying to strengthen them for what came next. The doctor and three Seals had run out of air on the way in and would stay with the boys until the end. But what came next was the dilemma. The boys would have to pass through at least a half mile of passages that were completely flooded to the ceiling. One plan was to stock the boys with food to last for six months until the water subsided. That was ruled out when divers measured oxygen levels in the cave and found they'd already fallen to 15 percent from the normal 21 percent in the atmosphere. They wouldn't survive a month. One plan involved drilling a tunnel into the cavern similar to the one that saved the Chilean miners in 2010. But it was deemed too complicated and too dangerous. Teams of volunteer rock climbers, even famed bird-nest collectors of Libong Island, had scoured the mountain's deep sinkholes looking for an alternative route to the boys. They found nothing.

Right: Underground operation

The only path left was to dive the boys and their coach out. But none of them had diving experience. Even the Thai Navy Seals who managed to make it back from the boy's cavern felt diving them out of the tunnel with all its twists and turns, vertical passages and snags was impossible. Some of the sumps were more than 50 feet deep. The narrowest pinch point only less than two feet wide. In a tragic emphasis of the point, a former Thai Navy Seal named Saman Gunan, an experienced diver, died while shuttling air tanks into the cave. No one knows how or why, but it put the risk to the half-starved boys in stark relief. In the end the British team decided there was only one option: sedate the boys to unconsciousness, put them in sealed full face masks, and then bind their arms behind them with zip ties, so if they did wake up and panic en route they wouldn't kill themselves or their rescuers. The divers built special harnesses for the boys with handles on their backs so they could swim them out like human duffle bags.

"We were faced with an impossible decision," says Volanthan. "Stay where they were and they are all going to die. If we brought them out, there was a chance some might survive. It was the Devil and the deep blue sea. At the end of the day, the ends justified the means."

Harris was called in for both his cave diving expertise and his medical skills, being only one of only two known cave-diving anesthesiologists in the world. At first he was totally opposed to the plan. "I didn't think it would work at all," Harris says. "I expected the first two kids to drown and then we'd have to do something different. I put their odds of survival at zero."

And yet, work it did. Slowly and methodically, one by one, each boy donned a wetsuit, was given a Xanex, then injected with ketamine, a heavy sedative that has the added benefit of scrambling memories. Many had to be re-sedated by the divers once or twice en route. While many around the world were aghast when they found out the details, the boys were surprisingly okay with it. And who could blame them? It was if they had fallen down a well filled with primordial human horrors from total darkness to asphyxiation, drowning to hypothermia, starvation to being buried alive. They were cold, hungry, and ready to see their families again. And they were incredibly brave. Not a tear was seen among them.

The boys were in the ninth cavern. Only the experienced cave divers—all volunteers from the UK—would transport the boys between caverns nine and three, helped along at each cavern by the European team—the skilled expat technical dive instructors from the resorts in South Thailand. At cavern three the boys would be given a medical check by the U.S. military team and passed along to a hundred or so rescuers from a half dozen nations who gently passed them along on a rescue sled. One by one out they came, and were quickly evacuated to a hospital in Chiang Rai, where they were found to be in good health. None remembered a thing of the terrifying trip.

The three-day rescue was not without difficulties. John Volantan swam three kids out, and the last one got tangled in telephone wires that had been laid down before the cave flooded. He had to cut the unconscious boy loose before they could proceed. Danish ex-pat Ivan Karadzcic, one of the support divers, lost the guide line when his borrowed caving helmet began to choke him and he couldn't unlatch the strap. Luckily he found the guideline in the total blackness and was able to move on. Chris Jewell, one of the British divers, wasn't so lucky. He dropped the guide line while shifting his human package from one hand to the other and couldn't find it. He ended up feeling a cable at the bottom and following it back into the cavern from which he'd come. Harris was following him out and saw him there, the blood drained from his face. He took the child the rest of the way out.

When it was all over, and the media trucks were gone, many of the divers were given medals for valor from their countries. But they were quick to demur any heroism and heaped praise on the boys and the entire volunteer army that turned out to save them. Karadich, the former Danish insurance salesman turned technical dive instructor in Koa Tao, says he'd heard there were more than 7,000 volunteers on the mountain. Some cooked the 20,000 meals a day provided free to the rescue teams. Some ran the pumps or diverted the streams at the top of the cave to keep the water at bay, buying the boys precious time. Engineers, hydrologists, and drilling teams pounded the rocks to pump out groundwater, flooding the rice fields of hundreds of poor Thai rice farmers who lost their crop and asked for no compensation. Taxi drivers shuttled volunteers back and forth from the airport for free. Others did laundry for the rescue teams. It was a truly international and community effort.

"I've received thousands of messages from around the globe, thanking us for not just saving the kids, but for getting the world together and setting an example for mankind," says Karadzic. "Even if you've never been in a cave before, it was something everyone in the world could relate to. Who hasn't been a kid once, scared to death of the dark?"

For most, just reading about cave diving makes one hyperventilate. Why anyone would choose to do it for fun remains a bit baffling.

"It's a very cerebral sport," says Dr. Richard Harris. "There's no adrenaline rush. It's very much a meditative state of mind. The whole idea is to be very relaxed, calm and smooth in the water. A lot of cave divers are fairly introverted, often quiet. But you couldn't find a more competent, pragmatic, and courageous group of guys that were at the pointy end of this rescue."

After receiving one of Australia's highest awards for civilian bravery, Harrison's fellow rescuer Chris Challen might have been speaking for all cave divers when he told reporters, "We're just a couple of ordinary blokes with an unusual hobby."

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Divine Protection

Kaew, the Thai Navy SEAL member, was standing in the chilly flood of the cave on Tuesday night, swallowing his last bite of seafood-and-pineapple pizza, when he heard the yelled warning: More water was coming fast — get out now.

For three grueling days, he and his comrades had been hefting the 12 boys and their coach one by one through the series of slick and steep caverns to safety.

Just moments before the alarm, he had welcomed back the SEAL team that stayed with the boys for eight days on the rock where they had been trapped deep within Tham Luang’s flooded maze.

“The boys were safe, and my friends were safe,” said Kaew, who was not authorized to give his full name. “I thought, finally, the mission is a success.”

Then, when it was seemingly all over, a drainage pump to minimize flooding failed. What had been waist-high water surged to chest level in a vicious torrent where Kaew was standing, about a half-mile inside the cave’s mouth. Kaew, who had no scuba gear with him, scrambled to higher ground, barely escaping the final deluge.

It was a chaotic finale to the rescue. Many of the divers and residents of the nearby northern Thai town of Mae Sai saw the last-minute flood as a sign that divine protection had ceased only after all were safe.

For the entire mission, Kaew had wrapped a Buddha amulet hanging on his neck with waterproof tape. “The cave is sacred,” he said. “It was protected until the very end.”

Relying on God Before and After the Cave Rescue

Adun does his morning chores at the hostel before going to school.

His parents’ desire for Adun to grow up with a strong faith became a reality through his experiences in the church and Compassion-assisted center. And that faith grew even stronger as he turned to God during those awful moments when his life hung in the balance in a dark, cold cave.

“Help came from God during the hardest time,” says Adun. “I very intently prayed, and God answered me with His help. It was me and God together facing that situation, and I am thankful to Him for helping me get out of the cave.”

Adun knows that his strength comes from the One he believes in and that it is God who keeps him safe not only during the dark moments of life, but in everyday challenges.

Still today, Adun is not publicly sharing details about his experience inside the flooded cave. He and the other boys have received psychological care through government and nongovernment services. They have been counseled that they never have to share about their experience if they don’t want to. But Adun and the others are healing every day from the trauma.

“Adun and 12 other friends have been closely monitored by the Chiang Rai Provincial Social Development and Human Security Office,” says Siripan Kongsuriyanawin, Compassion Thailand Child Protection Specialist. “When the psychologists assessed [them], the mental state of all 13 children is normal.”

Lessons from the rescue of the Thai soccer team

Recently I wrote a blog saying that “… the world breathed a sigh of relief when the news came that the 12 Thai soccer team members who had been trapped for 9 days in a cave near the golden triangle had been rescued.” A comment on my blog reminded me that they had been found, but were not yet out of the cave. Now that they have been safely rescued, we can rejoice and also pause to think of possible lessons that can be learned:

  1. Finding the lost is relatively easy compared to getting them safely out of the pit. Christian research groups have identified 7,000 Unreached People Groups (UPGs) globally, comprising 42% of the world’s population. The approximately 21 million Isaan people of Northeast Thailand number in the top 50 of these 7,000 groups. This Isaan group is a part of the more than 60 million Thai Buddhists that are in great need of a gospel witness.
  2. Major obstacles and sacrifices will be faced in order to free those trapped. Trained divers took up to 6 hours in order to reach the soccer team. They faced strong currents, near-zero visibility, narrow passages and lack of oxygen (one of their number died in the effort). The human and financial cost of the effort was substantial, but was a minor concern when 13 souls were at stake. How much more effort and money should be expended when you think of the billions of eternal souls that remain trapped in the cave of sin and death, and separated from God and unaware of Jesus their only possible rescuer.
  3. Access to Reached People Groups (RPG) is easy compared to unreached people groups. Reached groups have easy access to the gospel and would compare with people trapped near the mouth of a cave. Unreached groups, however, due to their situation “in the depths of the pit”, will require a massive rescue operation with national and international teams joining hands in the effort. For most, the idea of unreached groups brings to mind a remote tribe in the depth of a tropical jungle. However, in today’s world, the vast majority of the unreached are more likely to live in “concrete jungles” which are readily accessible (like Tokyo or Bangkok) but are still “in the depths of the pit”, untouched by the Good News. Such urban dwellers might have Christian neighbours who live close by yet they stay separated from the gospel due to their world view. The Thai soccer team was separated from the outside world by less than 500 meters – but those 500 meters consisted of solid rock. Similarly, these unreached people might be close in terms of physical distance, but the gospel has yet to penetrate the ‘solid rock’ of their world view assumptions and misconceptions. Yet when the gospel of truth does penetrate the darkness, we have seen wonderful changes when these people are ‘brought out into the light’.
  4. After being rescued, people need to be brought to spiritual health. Once rescued the first major concern was the health of the soccer team. They had been in extreme conditions for over two weeks and were weak and many sick. The fledgling church in many parts of Asia is weak, often struggling, and in great need of strong biblical discipleship and follow-up.

Thanks for your comments, Larry. We are blessed to be among the thousands helping in some way, and rejoice to see many inching towards the peace and freedom of Jesus our chief rescuer.

Wise and challenging comments Larry.

I am glad you personally are still using your training and gifts to reach the lost in Thailand
and in California. May God bless and sustain your mother in recovering from her stroke.
Rosemary Watson

[…] be found here : “Thai Soccer Team Lost, Found! … and Rescued?” and here : “Lessons from the rescue of the Thai soccer team“. These blog posts remind us the work that still needs to be done to reach the many […]

Thai boys were drugged with ketamine for risky cave rescue

3:54 All 12 boys and coach rescued from Thai cave
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The 12 members of a Thai soccer team who were trapped in a cave last summer took ketamine before their dangerous rescue, according to an article published in a medical journal.

The 12 players, who ranged in age from 11-16, and their coach were trapped in a dark cave for about two weeks by a sudden flood. The whole world watched as they slowly made their way out in small groups in a rescue that involved lengthy and dangerous underwater dives over two days in July 2018.

And according to a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, the boys and their coach were anesthetized with ketamine for the rescue. They were also given full face masks that supplied 80 per cent oxygen and swum out of the cave by the rescue team.

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Ketamine was chosen for a reason: while it’s useful as an anesthetic, it also constricts blood vessels, making it a “good choice for patients at risk for hypothermia,” according to the letter.

It’s also a fast-acting painkiller that can produce vivid dreams and a feeling that the mind is separated from the body, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. For this reason, it’s sometimes used recreationally — though it remains illegal outside of medical and veterinary settings.

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3:20 Video shows rescue from inside Thailand cave

To get the boys out, rescue divers set up an underwater relay system of oxygen tanks and tethers and escorted them along. None of the boys had caving or diving experience.

Because the rescue involved long swims through cold water in “poorly fitting” wetsuits, hypothermia was a primary concern.

The field hospital which received the first four patients found that they had been anesthetized with “unspecified doses” of ketamine, administered by the rescue cave divers.

The medical team removed the full-face oxygen masks, replacing them with smaller masks. They gave the boys sunglasses to protect their eyes, which hadn’t seen sunlight in weeks, and carefully removed the wetsuits.

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0:23 Thai PM denies rescued boys tranquilized before rescue, but took anti-anxiety drug

The doctors kept the boys warm after their long swim in cold water using cloth blankets, heated blankets, and foil wraps as well as other forced-air warming devices. Even their rehydration saline was warmed before they were transferred to the hospital.

One boy did develop hypothermia on the way to the hospital, according to the letter. After that, an anesthesiologist was assigned to take charge of hypothermia protection for the subsequent patients.

All 13 team members, including the coach, made it out of the cave alive. One person, a former Thai Navy SEAL, died during the rescue operation.