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Heroic welcome for Thai Navy SEAL team after Tham Luang success

14 July 2018

The 12 boys who ended up trapped in a flooded cave with their football coach in northern Thailand had only planned to explore the system for an hour, according to their parents.

There was joy and relief in Thailand on Tuesday evening when the final five were freed from the cave after a tricky three-day operation.

'The diving conditions were extremely challenging, there was poor visibility and responsibility for another human being's life.

Volanthen said Saman's death last Friday had brought a "bittersweet" taste to an otherwise "excellent" operation.

But he said: "The most important thing to have was a full face mask which had been applied inside with positive pressure to enable them to breathe and to be relaxed enough so not to feel any anxiety during the process".

Wild Boars head coach Nopparat Khantavong said his remaining players were in good spirits after returning to practice knowing their friends were safe.

He credited Australian medic and diver Dr. Richard "Harry" Harris and three Thai Navy SEALs for staying with the boys and coach deep in the cave and keeping them calm and encouraged while plans were being hatched to get them out.

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The group survived by drinking water that dripped off the stalactites and the cave walls, rescue officials said.

The Thai authorities are planning to set up a museum at the cave site to showcase the daring rescue operation, and a Hollywood production house has announced plans for a film version of the group's ordeal.

"We're not heroes", he told the BBC after arriving back in London. "But I think at that point we realized the enormity of the situation and that's perhaps why it took awhile to get them all out".

Dr Harris and long time dive partner Craig Challen are up for our highest civilian honour, the Cross of Valour.

The father of 14-year-old Ekkarat Wongsukchan said the coach dived into the water to see their circumstances once they became trapped, and drew arrows on the cave wall so no one became lost.

"The favourable outcome that has been achieved is nearly beyond our imagination when we first became involved in this operation", they said. "Be good people, be a force for good for your country", Rear Admiral Apakorn Yuukongkaew, commander of Thailand's navy SEALS unit, said in a message to the boys before boarding a flight from Chiang Rai. "And be careful in the future", Jason Mallison, a diver for the British Cave Rescue Council, said when asked by reporters in Thailand if there was anything he wanted to tell the rescued members of the Wild Boar soccer team.

Heroic welcome for Thai Navy SEAL team after Tham Luang success