The full story of Thailand’s extraordinary cave rescue

Personnel and equipment in the entrance chamber of Tham Luang cave during rescue operations during 26–27 June 2018. Screen capture from NBT news report.
Yes, Thai Cave Rescue is based on the true story of the rescue of 12 Thai boys from youth soccer team the Wild Boars and their coach from the Tham Luang Cave, between June 23 and July 10, 2018.
It took nine days to locate the trapped souls and another eight to rescue them all – but did it really happen?

In June and July 2018, a junior association football team and their assistant coach were rescued from the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai Province in northern Thailand. Twelve members of the team, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old assistant coach entered the cave on 23 June after a football practice session. Shortly thereafter, heavy rainfall partially flooded the cave system, blocking their way out, and trapping them deep within.

Efforts to locate the group were hampered by rising water levels and strong currents; and no contact was made for more than a week. The cave rescue effort expanded into a massive operation amid intense worldwide public interest and involving international rescue teams. On 2 July, after advancing through narrow passages and muddy waters, British divers John Volanthen and Rick Stanton found the group alive on an elevated rock about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) from the cave mouth. Rescue organisers discussed various options for extracting the group, including whether to teach them basic underwater diving skills to enable their early rescue, to wait until a new entrance to the cave was found or drilled, or to wait for the floodwaters to subside by the end of the monsoon season several months later. After days of pumping water from the cave system and a respite from rain, the rescue teams hastened to get the group out of the cave before the next monsoon rain, which was expected to bring additional downpours and was predicted to start around 11 July.

Between 8 and 10 July, all 12 boys and their coach were rescued from the cave by an international team.[9]

The rescue effort involved as many as 10,000 people, including more than 100 divers, scores of rescue workers, representatives from about 100 governmental agencies, 900 police officers, and 2,000 soldiers. Ten police helicopters, seven ambulances, more than 700 diving cylinders, and pumping of more than one billion litres of water from the caves were required.

Saman Kunan, a 37-year-old former Royal Thai Navy SEAL, died of asphyxiation during an attempted rescue on 6 July while returning to a staging base in the cave after delivering diving cylinders to the trapped group. The following year, in December 2019, rescue diver and Thai Navy SEAL Beirut Pakbara died of a blood infection contracted during the operation.[1

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