Thai cave rescue: First images revealed of 12 rescued boys

Publish Date
Thursday, 12 July 2018, 8:00AM

The 12 Thai boys rescued from a flooded cave are seen cheerfully waving while recovering in their hospital beds in a heartwarming new video, as stunning footage of them being carried to safety is released for the first time.

The hospital video shows some of the boys making "horn" and "victory" signs while appearing to smile from behind their green surgical masks in an isolation unit in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, the Daily Mail reports.

The last remaining four school boys and their coach, who had been trapped in the Tham Luang cave complex for 18 days, were carried out on stretchers on Tuesday at the end of a "miracle" three-day operation.

They do not look shell-shocked or stunned despite their harrowing stretch inside a dank, dark cave, followed by a risky rescue operation that was dubbed "Mission Impossible".

The youngest boy, 11, appeared asleep under a crisp white sheet while others, including their 25-year-old soccer coach, sit in bed.

Nurses are seen chatting with them and the boys respond with the customary Thai sign of respect - hands pressed together while bowing the head.

The video also sees some of their parents - who are still not allowed to touch, let alone hug, their sons due to the risk of infection - crying and waving to them from the other side of the glass windows. 

The footage was shown during a press conference held by the rescue chief, acting Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn, who praised the children as "heroes".

He said he believed the Wild Boar FC players would "grow up to be good citizens", and added that they are "healthy and strong". 

"Don't need to worry about their physical health and even more so for their mental health," said Chaiwetch Thanapaisal, director of Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital. "Everyone is strong in mind and heart," he said at the news conference. 

The press conference also revealed that the order the 12 boys were rescued in was decided by their 25-year-old coach, Ekaphol Chantawong.  

It had previously been reported that the initial strategy of rescuing the strongest first had been changed before the rescue operation began, after a health assessment of the football players.

A specialist doctor visiting the group on the ledge deep inside the cave had determined that some of the weakest children may not make it unless they were brought out first.

Today, Navy SEALs commander, Rear Adm. Apakorn Youkongkae said the football coach had been the one to made the call.

"I haven't asked the coach yet why he chose that order," he said. "The coach was the one to choose."

Their miraculous escape, during which the 12 boys were moved out one by one over three days, had seen them endure dives in zero visibility lasting up to half an hour, the leader of the U.S. contingent of the operation has revealed.

U.S. Air Force rescue specialist Derek Anderson detailed how parts of the rescue route would see the Wild Boar FC players put in a harness and high-lined across rocky caverns. 

Anderson said the 12 boys and their coach, who were trapped for more than two weeks, were "incredibly resilient."

"What was really important was the coach and the boys all came together and discussed staying strong, having the will to live, having the will to survive," he said.

The complicated operation to bring the boys out of the cave began on Sunday, when four were extracted.

Four more were brought out on Monday, and the operation ended Tuesday with the rescue of the last four boys and their 25-year-old coach.

This article was originally published on Daily Mail and is reproduced here with permission.