It’s a great day in Thailand! The 12 soccer players and their coach who were rescued from a flooded cave made their first public appearance Wednesday, smiling and waving and sharing details of their frightening ordeal.
Ekapol Chanthawong, the 25-year-old coach who led the boys into the Tham Luang Nang Non cave, immediately wanted to set the record straight.
“Yes, we all can swim,” he said.
One of the boys called it a “miracle moment” when two British divers discovered them.
“Then he asked, ‘How are you’ and I responded, ‘We’re fine,'” Pipat Bodhi, 15, said.
The amazing rescue took place over a period of three days last week. The first four boys were taken from the cave on July 8th. One SEAL was swimming ahead of the boys and another behind, all while attached to a tether.
Four more boys were rescued on July 9, and the final four boys and their coach were brought out of the cave on July 10. The last group had stayed in the cave for 18 days by the time they were saved.
Former provincial Gov. Narongsak Osatanakorn said that as soon as the final boys and coach were taken out of the cave, the main water pump failed and water rushed back into the tunnel. The navy SEALs still inside were forced to abandon oxygen tanks and quickly make an escape.
After spending over two weeks in a cave, the boys were in remarkable health from the moment they were rushed to the hospital. Several of the boys tested positive for minor lung infections, but on the whole, officials said from the beginning the boys were happy and healthy.
The boys were not allowed to eat solid foods, or spicy foods, for their first days in the hospital. Their parents were also forced to view them from afar, and through glass, for two days in order to prevent the spread of infection.
One of the rescuers involved in the search, Saman Kunan, a former Thai navy SEAL, died from a lack of oxygen on July 6. The boys have prayed for the 38-year-old and will become monks for a time as a way to honor him.