Sat | Aug 18, 2018

Out of hospital, Thai boys recount moment they were found

Published:Wednesday | July 18, 2018 | 4:45 PM
Coach Ekkapol Janthawong, left, and members of the rescued football team express their thanks during a press conference discussing their experience of being trapped in a flooded cave, in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

CHIANG RAI, Thailand (AP) — Trapped in the recesses of a flooded cave in northern Thailand, the 12 boys and their soccer coach were trying to dig their way out when they heard voices in the darkness.

Their coach quickly told everyone to be quiet.

“We weren’t sure if it was for real,” said 14-year-old Adul Samon. “So we stopped and listened. And it turned out to be true. I was shocked.”

That stunning moment when two British divers found the missing soccer team was recounted by the boys Wednesday at their first news conference since the rescue that riveted the world.

The group, looking healthy after recuperating at a hospital, entered 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.

The boys — dressed in green and white uniforms with a red wild boar, their team’s nickname — then hugged their friends before taking seats up front with doctors and members of the Thai navy SEAL unit that helped rescue them.

Others who helped them during their ordeal, which ended after more than two weeks when they were brought out of the cave last week, were also there.

In one poignant and emotional moment, a portrait was displayed of Saman Gunan, the former Thai navy SEAL diver who died in the rescue attempt, and the team members showed their gratitude and respect for him. 

The boys, whose ages range from 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach answered questions submitted by the media, including about the lessons they learned during their experience.

“I feel stronger, I have more patience, endurance, tolerance,” said 13-year-old Mongkol Boonpiam.

Adul said, “This experience teaches me not to live life carelessly.”

Several said they want to become professional football players, while four said they want to emulate the heroes who saved them.

“I want to be a navy SEAL because I want to help others,” said one.

All said they want to apologise to their parents, most of whom they had not informed in advance about the trek to the cave after soccer practice.

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