Youth Soccer Team And Coach Trapped In Thailand Cave For 18 Days Safely Rescued

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Footage released by The Royal Thai Navy shows the moment the group of missing boys were finally found by British divers inside the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand (Photo Credit: Royal Thai Navy via Facebook)

On Tuesday, July 10, 2018, the world watched with bated breath as an international team of rescuers safely extracted the two remaining members of the Moo Pa, or, Wild Boar, soccer team from a flooded cave in Thailand. The twelve boys, aged between 11 and 17, along with their coach, Ekkapol Ake Chantawong, had been trapped inside the intricate seven-mile long Tham Luang Nang Non cave system in northern Thailand's Chiang Rai Province for over two weeks.

The 18-day ordeal began after soccer practice on June 23, 2018, when the team headed to the cavern to celebrate player Peerapat Sompiangjai’s birthday. While the 2.5-mile trek to their destination was easy enough, a sudden downpour of heavy monsoon rains flooded the subterranean labyrinth, making it impossible to leave. That night, the boys were reported missing, and their bicycles were found outside of the mouth of the cave system. However, any attempt to locate them was hampered by heavy rains that kept the water levels high, blocking access to the chambers where rescuers hoped the group may have found refuge.

Photo Credit: The botnews.com

Miraculously, on Monday, July 2, two British rescue divers found all 13 individuals alive on a muddy ledge in a dry air pocket deep inside the cave. While the boys had lost weight, they were alert and calm and had managed to sustain themselves on the treats brought to celebrate Peerapat’s birthday. Though the news was met with much joy, the rescuers knew that extracting all 13 safely was a tricky endeavor, given that about 1.5 miles of the narrow passage to the exit was flooded with water, as deep as 15 feet in some areas. While the Thai Navy SEALs team strategized on the best way to bring the trapped players home, rescue divers brought in food, light, and supplies, and kept the boys’ spirits lifted by delivering letters to and from their families.

Rescuers emerge with the players (Photo Credit: Thai Navy SEALs)

The most obvious solution to free the boys was to pump water out of the cave system. However, that effort was abandoned after officials realized that the 35 million gallons extracted seemed to make little difference. Another idea was to drill a hole into the cave and lift the boys to safety. However, the team was trapped 0.5 miles underground in an area covered by dense jungle, and even if their exact location could be determined, it would take several weeks to bore a hole. An effort to find a back entrance to the cave also proved futile in the dense vegetation.

After much debate, it was decided that the only feasible solution was to have the boys swim to freedom. However, given that the journey was arduous for even advanced divers, and the fact that a number of the boys could not swim, this was a risky proposition. The fear was exacerbated by the unfortunate demise of 38-year-old Saman Gunan, a retired Thai Navy SEAL who suffocated while placing oxygen tanks along the underwater route. But with the threat of heavy rainfall, which could increase cave flooding and delay rescue until as late as October, as well as the cave’s rapidly dropping oxygen levels, the officials had no other choice.

Boys soccer team found in the cave (Photo Credit; Thai Navy SEALs)

The tricky mission began on Wednesday, July 4 when thirteen specialist divers and five Thai Navy SEALs entered the cave, installed a static, 8mm safety rope, and began teaching the boys and the coach how to dive and swim. The rescue attempt started at 5:40 p.m. local time on Sunday, July 8. Each boy, equipped with a diving suit, boots, gloves, helmet, and a full-face diving mask, was tethered to a lead diver, who also carried an oxygen tank for him, with another diver following. While navigating the dry areas, rescuers carried each boy on a stretcher. It took eight hours for the first boy to emerge and two more for the next three. Four more boys were rescued on Monday, while the final four and the coach were safely retrieved early Tuesday evening.

All 13 Wild Boars were transported to the hospital by ambulance for treatment. Hopefully, they will be able to recover quickly from the ordeal and return to playing their favorite sport. “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,” said Payap Maiming, who provided supplies to volunteers and journalists. “It’s really a miracle. It’s hope and faith that has brought us this success.”

Resources: CNN.com, BBC.co.uk,vox.com, guardian.com

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Reading Comprehension (15 questions)

  1. What happened on July 10, 2018?
  2. Where were the soccer players trapped?
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Critical Thinking Challenge

If you had the opportunity to write a letter to the trapped boys, what...

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Vocabulary in Context

“After much debate, it was decided that the only feasible solution was to have the boys swim to freedom.”

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327 Comments
  • METuesday, April 2, 2019 at 1:01 pm
    I saw this on the news
    • dax2015
      dax2015Thursday, March 28, 2019 at 3:41 pm
      I saw this on the news a while ago.
      • bananaskinz
        bananaskinzWednesday, March 27, 2019 at 7:55 am
        so scary
        • pMonday, March 18, 2019 at 7:08 am
          cool
          • Girl power Friday, March 8, 2019 at 1:26 pm
            You don’t have to be strong to suvive without food for 2 weeks it just depends how healthy you are. They play soccer so they are healthy. That’s how they could survive.
            • unicornThursday, March 7, 2019 at 5:07 pm
              I am so glad the boys got out safely and were alive. We are so lucky to have people who care so much about other people
              • mhegabSunday, March 3, 2019 at 9:26 pm
                cool
                • Vivaan BhattSaturday, March 2, 2019 at 11:41 am
                  I feel bad for a diver who died but happy for 13 kids
                  • jgamer
                    jgamerWednesday, February 27, 2019 at 9:15 am
                    noice
                    • audreyTuesday, February 26, 2019 at 7:50 am
                      thats cool beans