The 12 boys and their soccer coach who were trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand have all finally been rescued, ending an 18-day ordeal that gripped local and international onlookers.
“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave,” the Thai Navy SEALs posted on their Facebook page.
What started as a hiking trip gone awry ended as a high-stakes crash course in cave diving, in which the boys were taught how to swim, wear full-face oxygen masks, and meditate to keep calm.
“They are forced to do something that no kid has ever done before,” Ivan Karadzic, a diver on the rescue team, told the BBC. “They are diving in something considered an extremely hazardous environment in zero visibility. The only light that is in there is the torch light we bring ourselves.”
To make the 2.5-mile journey out of the cave, each boy was escorted by expert divers who sometimes had to hold the boys’ oxygen tanks for them while they traversed through incredibly narrow passageways. The most dangerous section of the journey came at a pitch-black, 15-inch-wide “pinch point” that the boys had to navigate alone, CBS News reported.
“We could see only our hands a short distance. The stones are razor-sharp, which are dangerous for our diving,” one diver told CBS News. “Thirdly, the passage is very narrow. This is the hardest mission we’ve ever done.”
Tuesday’s mission marks the third successful rescue operation in the past week. The prior missions were prioritized to rescue the weakest of the boys first. All of them are now recovering and in quarantine at a local hospital.
The Associated Press reported that the families of the boys “were being kept at a distance because of fears of infection and the emaciated-looking boys were eating a rice-based porridge because they were still too weak to take regular food, authorities said.”
Tech inventory Elon Musk sent engineers from two of his companies and designed a “kid-sized submarine” to help in the rescue effort. However, a Thai official said, “Although his technology is good and sophisticated it’s not practical for this mission.”
Musk took issue with the statement.
The former Thai provincial governor (described inaccurately as “rescue chief”) is not the subject matter expert. That would be Dick Stanton, who co-led the dive rescue team. This is our direct correspondence: pic.twitter.com/dmC9l3jiZR
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 10, 2018
The boys’ 25-year-old soccer coach was reportedly the last to emerge from the cave, excluding several rescue officials who stayed behind. One former Thai navy Seal diver, Saman Kunan, died last week in the rescue operation.