Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Thai youngsters rescued from flooded caves meet the media

The Wild Boars football team recounted the moment British divers found the group, stranded underground.

Twelve boys and their football coach who were rescued from a cave in northern Thailand have spoken to journalists from around the world after their dramatic rescue.

Looking healthy after their 18-day ordeal, the boys recounted the moment they were first found by British divers helping the rescue effort in the Tham Luang caves in Chiang Rai province.

Fourteen-year-old Adul Samon said: “We were digging stones on top of the hill and we heard voices.” He said the coach told everyone to be quiet.

“We weren’t sure if it was for real,” Adul said. “So we stopped and listened. And it turned out to be true. I was shocked.”

bpanews_209e78cc-41c6-465e-9158-49a335c26382_embedded237630903
Banphot Konkum, the uncle of Duangpetch Promthep, weeps ahead of the team being unveiled (AP)

Adul said he then took a torch from another team member and rushed down to meet the two British divers who found them nearly 10 days after they became trapped in the flooded cave.

The Wild Boars team entered the news conference to applause from reporters and classmates and put on a quick demonstration of their skills on a miniature football field set up in the hall where they met the media in Chiang Rai.

They then hugged their friends before taking seats up front with doctors and members of the Thai navy SEAL unit who dived to help bring them out, along with others who helped them during their ordeal.

Doctors said the 13 were healthy in body and mind.

They added that the boys had gained around 6.6lbs on average since they were rescued from the cave, having lost an average of 9lbs during 18 days trapped in the cave.

The news conference was the first opportunity the members of the team had to speak directly to the media, though video of them was released previously. Officials reviewed questions in advance to make certain none might cause damaging psychological effects.

bpanews_209e78cc-41c6-465e-9158-49a335c26382_embedded237534780
British divers who were instrumental in the cave rescue (Steve Parsons/PA)

They were asked about the moment when two British cave divers first found them and also the circumstances of how they entered the cave and became trapped there.

The Wild Boars team had entered the Tham Luang cave on June 23 for what was to be a relaxing excursion after football practice. Heavy rain began falling while they were underground, and water filled the caverns, cutting off their escape.

British divers found the group huddling on a spot of dry ground deep inside the cave nearly 10 days later, hungry but generally healthy.

An international team of rescuers using diving equipment and pulleys extracted the 12 boys, who range in age from 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach through the tight, flooded passageways over three days, concluding on July 10.

bpanews_209e78cc-41c6-465e-9158-49a335c26382_embedded237627324
The boys and their coach were treated at a hospital in Chiang Rai (AP)

Some of the boys were treated for minor infections during their hospital stay, but all 13 have been described as recovering well.

One of the boys, 13-year-old Mongkol Boonpiam, said: “I feel stronger, I have more patience, endurance, tolerance.

Adul said: “This experience teaches me not to live life carelessly.”

Several of the boys said they want to become professional soccer players, while four said they wanted to emulate the heroes who saved them.

“I want to be a navy SEAL because I want to help others,” said one.

The family of one of the boys is preparing their home for his return on Wednesday night.

Banphot Konkum, an uncle who has raised 13-year-old Duangpetch Promthep, said he will have a renovated bedroom and gifts awaiting him.

“We’ll do whatever he wants. If he wants anything we’ll buy it for him as a present as we promised that when he gets out, whatever he wants we’ll do it for him,” Mr Banphot said.

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph