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CNN 10

Revisiting the 12 Soccer Team Members Rescued in Thailand

Aired September 7, 2018 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN 10 ANCHOR: Hi, I`m Carl Azuz and guess what? Fridays are awesome. We`ve got a fascinating show set up for you today. It takes a

look back at a series of events that happened in South Eastern Asia this summer and became one of the greatest rescue stories of the 21st century.

It involves 12 young soccer players, their coach and a group of international heroes who risked their own lives to save those of the

others. On Thursday in the capitol of Thailand, the nation`s Prime Minister welcomed the team and for the first time since they were brought

to safety by a group of cave experts and divers the team and the rescuers met face to face.

One of the men who volunteered to help said he tapped a diver on the shoulder and said, they`re there because of you. So how did all of this

come together? The basic facts are that the boys and their coach decided to explore a cave. They got trapped by rising flood waters and they had no

way out. They were found alive more than a week later but they were 100`s of meters below the surface. There were large amounts of water between

them and safety and the boys didn`t know how to swim. To make matters worse, more rain was in the forecast and no one knew how high the caves

would flood. But it`s when you hear the details of where they got trapped, what was done to locate and help them and how they are eventually brought

back home that gives you a sense of how daring and skilled the rescue effort had to be.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has there ever been a cave rescue quite like this one? The time military allied with an international team of volunteers searching

until the lost boys were found and daringly rescued in remote mountains in Northern Thailand. So much of the drama happened in the dark out of sight.

But it begins with a haunting image in silhouette. The kids bikes chained up in a row at the cave entrance. Football boots, shin pads left behind

with no sign of their owners. The date Saturday June 23rd and this was the missing party what we can now refer to as the miraculously "Lucky 13".

The Wild Boars football team plus their young coach went missing after match practice. They had explored this particular cave before but were

apparently trapped by a sudden monsoon flood, water and more water. In came the piping and the pumps and Thai Navy Seals. As the water continued

to rise, the equipment for a serious diving operation was transferred by hand and by hoist deep into the cave. Where were the boys? Could they be

reached in time? The place is known as the "Big Cave" for a reason. Almost 7 miles of limestone tunnels and recesses, nooks and crannies.

Anxious distressed relatives could only wait and offer prayers.

The cave known as Tham Luang was mapped by French divers in the 1980s. It`s among the longest in Thailand. But it`s the first few miles of the cave

that concern us here. The most recent survey was carried out by this man, Vern Unsworth. The British caver who has a home in the area. His

immediate advice was call in British experts.

VERN UNSWORTH, BRITISH CAVER: We got the Thai authorities to - - to understand that, you know, they needed expert divers out here. You know,

because cave diving - - it`s - - it`s specialists (inaudible). You know it`s like diving with - - you can`t see 3 inches in front of your face.

And they needed world class divers and that`s what we got.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rick Stanton on the left, a retired fireman from Coventry and his diving partner John Volanthen, an IT consultant from

Bristol. In cave diving, they`re pretty much as good as it gets. At the request of the Thai Command Center, they were flown out from Britain. On

the ground they almost passed unnoticed. Just two guys in dark short, t- shirts and Wellington boots. The British divers made their first exploratory dive on Wednesday June 27th, four days after the boys went


The challenge was immediately obvious, water the color of cold coffee, almost no visibility, swimming against a torrent of water, the engorged

stream that runs through the cave. The divers were able to lay down a crucial guide rope. And on the seventh day of diving, on Monday, July 2nd,

they found the boys perched on a rocky ledge and were met by an unforgettable chorus of little voices.


What day is it the boy`s asked?


Oh indeed. A nice surprise, England the home of Manchester United and Arsenal some of their favorite teams. The euphoria among relatives outside

was immediate. The British team some eight British divers in all were warmly embraced. Hugs all around. They brought hope out of the darkness.

The boys were joined on their ledge by Navy Seals, given food and emergency foil blankets and medicine. They sent message to their parents, wrote

letters that were carried out. Their coach had helped keep their spirits up during their ordeal in their tiny refuge less than half the size of a

tennis court. Coach Eka, as they call him, was sat at the back. He had been a Buddhist monk in his youth and taught them to meditate to pass the

time. On Friday, July 6th tragedy struck one of the Thai divers. Saman Kunan lost consciousness as he was replacing oxygen tanks and died. He was

38. A retired Thai Navy Seal, he had volunteered to join the rescue effort just five days earlier.

His death changed the mood in the cave. Now, there was a growing urgency about a rescue. We know it happened over three successive days, Sunday,

Monday, Tuesday, July 8th, 9th, and 10th. Thai Navy Seals have released footage of it. The boys carried out on so-called skid military stretchers,

but the most dramatic and daring part of the rescue happened off camera in the submerged part of the cave system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most important thing was to have a full face mask which we acquired on sight with positive pressure to enable them to breathe

and to relax them enough to not feel any anxiety during the process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems then that the boys were somehow escorted out one by one by pairs of divers before being put into stretchers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Myself and Jason Malinson (ph) came out after Rick and John and our roll was to help transport the boys underwater, through the

cave to bring them out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And not forgetting the anonymous quartet of Thai Navy Seals who`d kept the boys company on the ledge for seven days. They were

the last out after the boys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to get any of them out alive would have been a miracle. But to get 13 out of 13 won`t happen again, it`s the biggest

miracle ever.


CARL AZUZ: Well at least it`s one of them. The Chilean Mine Rescue of 2010, the passenger jet that safely landed on the Hudson River in 2009,

love to cover stories like these. Our daily, current events coverage picks back up on Monday. We hope to see you then.