(CBS) — New video shows just how challenging the rescue operation to save a group of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a cave in Thailand really was.
Divers made the perilous, two-and-a-half mile journey through darkness, murky waters and narrow passages to reach the boys, huddled in a dry pocket with little food and water. Divers led each boy out, one by one, with two divers escorting each.
The players were given scuba gear to get through the harrowing flooded parts and were wrapped in blankets and carried by stretcher over dry land. Their vital signs were closely monitored, and they were given anti-anxiety medication to stay calm.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Charles Hodges commanded the more than 35 Americans on site.
“We had to put them on positive-pressure full face masks, so we couldn’t see their faces,” he said. “They were in these flexible litters that kind of wrap around them so they’re unable to move.”
The missions were not only sophisticated, they were downright dangerous. At one point, two teams inside the cave briefly lost all communication. On the third day of rescues, oxygen levels in the cave dropped to toxic levels and a new round of monsoon rains threatened to raise floodwaters. The main, sending water rushing in. The last of the Thai Navy SEALs, three divers and a medic who had stayed behind with the group throughout the mission, barely made it out.
“Thankfully everyone was able to get out of chamber three safely and make their way out,” said Hodges. “It was a really exciting ending to an awesome mission.”
As the final ambulances left the cave, people lined the streets cheering.
At the hospital, the boys are. They have been quarantined and assigned their own nurse. They’ve been given tetanus and rabies shots, while some are on antibiotics and vitamins. Meanwhile, their families have been arriving in waves, but their reunions, fulls of tears, have so far only been allowed through a window.