- REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
- The 13 members of the Thai soccer team who were rescued from a cave held a press conference on Wednesday: their first public appearance.
- Doctors told the press that the boys are strong “emotionally and physically” and can go home.
- The boys and their coach are answering a series of questions from the media which have been screened beforehand.
- The 12 boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach have been recovering in the hospital for the last week after surviving around two weeks of being trapped.
The 13 members of the Thai soccer team who were rescued from a cave were formally given the medical all-clear on Wednesday, marking the end of their long and trying ordeal.
Doctors announced at a press conference held with all 12 boys and their coach that everybody is strong “emotionally and physically” and ready to go home.
It was also the boys’ first chance to engage with the outside world after the story of their rescue became a global phenomenon.
“We had experts look at them and checked their blood for diseases. I can confirm they are ready to go home, both mentally and physically.
“They’ve been ready to go home since they were in the cave,” doctors said.
Doctors also said the boys are responding to stress well, and are ready to leave a “normal life.”
The boys left the hospital at around 5:00 p.m. local time wearing their soccer uniforms emblazoned with their “Wild Boar” team logo. Vans painted in silver and pink drove the boys to the press conference, which began at roughly 6:00 p.m.
The live conference aired on the state-run program “Thailand Moves Forward.” The boys responded to pre-screened questions, and recounted how they got stuck inside the cave and survived for so many days without food.
The boys had tried to find an escape route but flooding led them to stay overnight
- Channel News Asia/Screenshot
The boys had entered the cave after soccer practice to explore, as many of the team members had done in the past, coach Ekapol Chanthawong said.
While the team only intended to stay in the cave for an hour, heavy rains trapped them inside and forced them to seek higher ground. After unsuccessfully attempting to find another way out of the cave, they decided to stay overnight and wait until water levels inside the cave receded.
But water levels did not recede, the team said, and they decided to try and dig their way out while waiting for rescue teams to come and find them. Without food, and surviving on just cave water, the boys took turns eventually digging a 16-foot hole into the cave wall.
The boys were taught how to meditate to conserve energy, and many avoided thinking about food in order to stave off hunger.
“We felt dizzy and hungry while we were trapped in the cave complex,” said the youngest team member. “We tried not to think of food, like fried rice, because it would make us hungrier.”
British divers eventually found the boys after they had survived for 10 days inside the cave. The boys, along with international divers, the Thai Navy SEALS, and the coach Chanthawong decided who should be rescued from the caves first.
Chanthawong said he asked the boys to “raise their hands” if they wanted to leave the cave first, and many were happy to stay back with the Thai Navy SEALS, with whom they had developed a close bond.
Eventually, it was the boys that lived the furthest away that were chosen to leave the cave first so they could “ride their bikes” and tell concerned families and authorities that they were okay and to prepare food.
Doctors want the boys to lead a “normal life”
- Channel News Asia/Screenshot
The boys also apologized to their parents for entering the caves and jeopardizing their safety. Many didn’t tell their parents they were going to the caves for fear of being scolded.
“We were careless with our lives,” said 14-year-old Adul Sam-on, who spoke English and helped communicate with British divers when they were first discovered.
Many of the boys promised to be “good,” and some now want to become Navy SEALS when they grew up.
Psychiatrists said they want the boys to “lead a normal life as soon as possible,” and not be given special treatment as they continue to recover.
“We ask everyone to give them personal space and time to be with their families and school,” they said.
The 12 boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach had been recovering in the hospital for the last week but now have a clean bill of health.
The rescue mission to extract the boys was dangerous and difficult, and took a team of more than 900 police officers, over 100 divers, and thousands of volunteers, according to the Wall Street Journal.