Thai Boys Rescued from Flooded Cave Make First Public Appearance

The Thai soccer team's 25-year-old coach Ekapol Chanthawong  explained how the team survived nine days in the cave.   Channel News Asia  YouTube

The Thai soccer team's 25-year-old coach Ekapol Chanthawong explained how the team survived nine days in the cave. Channel News Asia YouTube

It had been suggested the boys had been engaged in an initiation rite, or had been celebrating a team-member's birthday. The young footballers and their coach appeared healthy when they appeared before the media for the first time.

During their first public appearance since being saved, the boys, who are part of the football team Wild Boars, joined the Seals to have a kick about.

The group, looking healthy, entered the news conference to applause from reporters and classmates and put on a quick demonstration of their ball-handling skills on a miniature soccer field set up in the hall where they met journalists from around the world.

Some in the group said they wanted to become navy SEALs and others revealed they now felt strong enough to become professional soccer players.

Journalists have been warned to be "cautious" when asking questions and told that all questions will be screened by psychologist to ensure the boys are psychologically damaged by what they're asked.

When we were trapped inside, I immediately thought, 'I am going to get scolded'. They were trapped more than a mile from the main entrance, and rescue divers had to navigate tight and treacherous passages to retrieve them.

Officials have asked that the boys' privacy be respected once they are home. "It's just all I could think about: food".

When the divers breached the surface, Ardoon said he was so shocked, all he could think to say was "hello".

The group had planned to explore the Tham Luang cave complex for about an hour after football practice on June 23.

"Suddenly, we heard somebody talking", the teen said.

In fact, 25-year-old coach Ekapol Chantawong explained, the boys were merely curious to look inside as some of them had never visited it before.

Ake said that after realising they were indeed lost, the group walked until they found a dry, sandy spot. "We realised that we were stranded".

Thai Cave Map 4x3
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"I suggested that we dig a small channel, so that we could drain the water out of the way".

Using a flashlight, one or two boys went to the edge of the water inside a chamber of the flooded cave system, yelling, "Hello!"

"Our hearts burst, it was the first time we can say to ourselves that there's hope now", another boy said.

Fourteen-year-old Adul Sam-on recalled the moment when British divers Rick Stanton and John Volanthen discovered them more than a week after they had been lost.

The danger involved in the three-day operation was underlined by the death of 38-year-old former Navy SEAL diver Saman Kunan, who passed out while placing oxygen canisters along the route divers had to take to get the children out. "Everyone feels sorry that we were the cause for his family to grieve".

"We're waiting for Dom to come back and we're preparing a new room for him", Konkum said. He added that he was grateful to everyone.

When asked what they had learnt from the episode, one of the boys said: "I have learnt a lot from this experience". I really want to get out so much.

Ardun said though people can't predict the future, the experience had taught him about the consequences of acting carelessly. If the boys become novice monks, they will donate their gained merit to Kunan's memory. "I would like to help people", said one boy.

A crowd of media and onlookers was penned behind barricades as the group arrived in vans from the hospital where it has stayed since last week's global effort to extricate it from a flooded cave complex where it had been trapped.

"They are ready to go home", he said during the Wednesday press conference.

Doctors said all 13 rescued were in good physical and mental health after recuperating in hospital.

"In the evening, we were sitting around and we heard someone ... and I asked our team members to quiet down, because I heard some conversation", he said.

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