(CBS) — The last of the 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand were rescued on Tuesday. It couldn’t have happened without a team of skilled divers who risked their lives to save the boys.
Almost all of the rescued were flown in helicopters, then driven in ambulances to a Chiang Rai hospital. Officials there reported the first four rescued can now stand up and walk, but they can’t go far. They’re under quarantine because of risk of infection.
The nearly three week ordeal began when the boys set out to explore the cave as a team bonding experience. But it’s monsoon season, and rainwater soon started filling the cave, forcing them deeper inside before they found dry ground. That’s wheredays later, alive and in relatively good health.
Preparations for a rescue took days, and involved pumping out millions of gallons of water, drilling through hard rock and mapping the tunnels. The group would have to swim through dark, narrow passageways, wearing scuba gear. Each boy was guided by two divers, one in front, one in back.
Officials said the boys, many of whom had, were given anti-anxiety medication to keep them calm. In all, dozens of divers and some 100 support personnel carried out the rescues in three waves over three days.
“When I saw the diver and the kid on the horizon, I still didn’t know if it was a casualty or if it was a kid so I was very scared,” said Ivan Karadzic, one of the rescuers inside the cave. “It didn’t feel good. But when I saw that he was alive and breathing and seemed to be alright, it felt very good.”
When it was all over, everyone simply wanted to see the boys.
“I want to hug them first,” said another one of the boys’ coaches. “I want to cheer them on, I want to tell them how worried I’ve been.”