What led Thai cave rescue divers to trapped soccer team

It was handprints found on cave walls, which led rescuers to find and eventually bring 12 boys and their soccer coach to safety after they became trapped in a cave in Thailand. 

The boys are now recuperating and the rescuers who brought them to safety are starting to share stories of the dangers and their survival.  

The hospital in northern Thailand where the 12 members of the Wild Boars and their soccer coach are quarantined said on Friday they are basically healthy, aside from some minor infections.

A psychiatrist said their mental state seems fine. 

Two members of the Wild Boars soccer team trapped in Tham Luang cave and pictured right are rescuers pulling one of the 12 boys to safety. Source: AAP

Family members, first able to reunite with them only through a glass window, now can meet face-to-face though still not touch to ensure any illnesses do not spread. 

Banphot Konkum, father of 13-year-old Duangpetch Promthep, told The Associated Press his son — better known by his nickname, Dom — said the team members did not know rain had started falling after they had entered the Tham Luang cave on June 23.  

But the rain caused flooding in the cave, blocking them from exiting. 

“After an hour when they wanted to leave, the water level was rising. They ran further inside the cave to escape from the water. The water flow was strong,” Mr Banphot said.

Banphot Konkum, father of Duangpetch Promthep – one of the rescued Thai boys, shows his son’s life vest during an interview at their home in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai province. Source: AP Photo/Vincent Thian

In their search for a safe haven, the boys were reported to have used their hands to feel the walls for an opening to take them to a higher, safer spot.

Searchers later found what they thought were the boys’ handprints, giving them confidence the team was alive and the searchers were on the right path. 

“They, all 13 of them, saw a small passage or a crawl space, so they all dug the hole to get through to another spot, until they found Nen Nom Sao,” Mr Banphot said, referring to the sandy slope on which they ended up sheltering. There was nowhere else to go.

The boys recovering in hospital. Source: 7 News

Dom’s grandmother Kameay Promthep said she would tell Dom never to go near the cave or water again because she did not want anything to happen to him or for him to cause trouble to others again.

“I will tell Dom that he has to thank all the Thai people from all over the country and people from all over the world who were kind enough to come and help Dom,” she said.

“Without the (Thai Navy) SEALs, the officials, and everyone who came and helped, Dom wouldn’t be here today. He would not be seeing his grandma, and Grandma wouldn’t see his face again. From now on, Dom will have to be a good person.”

Wild Boars to pay tribute to fallen former Navy SEAL

Mr Banphot said all 13 rescued team members will enter the monkhood to pay tribute to Saman Kunan, a former Thai Navy SEAL who died while diving to place essential supplies along the rescue route.  

Becoming a monk at a temple for at least a short period is a way of making merit in Thai Buddhist tradition.

“We are planning the date and will do it whenever all the families are all ready,” Mr Banphot said.

An honour guard holds up a picture of Saman Kunan, a 38-year-old former member of Thailand’s elite navy SEAL unit who died working to save 12 boys. Source: Reuters

The mother of the youngest Wild Boar teammate, 11-year old Chanin Wiboonrungruang, told a Bangkok newspaper her son informed her the team did not make a special point of bringing along food since they were only planning a short trek into the cave. 

“After the first three nights with no food in the cave, my son felt extreme hunger and cried,” Ms Aikhan told the Bangkok Post.  

“He had to rely only on water dripping from the rock. It was very cold at night and pitch dark. They had to lie huddled together.”

With Associated Press.