CHIANG RAI, THAILAND – JUNE 28: Rescuers install a water pump inside Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.Photo: Linh Pham (Getty)
On Tuesday, the remaining five boys were rescued from the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex where 12 members of a soccer team and their coach were trapped for more than two weeks. The rescue mission spanned three days, and, according to new details, involved drugging the boys prior to the extraction.
The news comes from former Thailand Navy SEAL Chaiyananta Peeranarong, who told AFP on Wednesday that the boys were asleep or semi-awake during the rescue mission. “Some of them were asleep, some of them were wiggling their fingers… (as if) groggy, but they were breathing,” Commander Peeranarong, who helped transfer the boys through the cave, said. Junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha reported yesterday that the boys were given a “minor tranquilizer,” which a BBC report characterized as an anti-anxiety medication used by soldiers. “When we take this, we can be more focused and increase the chance of sharpshooting,” Chan-ocha said. BBC confirmed Wednesday that they were “heavily sedated” to prevent anxiety during the excavation.
The first footage of the mission shows boys wrapped up and strapped to stretchers as divers transfer them through the cave’s narrow passageways using a pulley system. Many of the boys, who were all part of the Wild Boars soccer team, didn’t know how to swim and didn’t have any diving experience. Each boy was assigned two divers, a bodysuit, and a full face mask.
“This is the hardest mission we’ve ever done,” Thai rescue diver Narongsuk Keasub told CNN. “The lower the water is getting, the stronger the current. It’s stronger now. Every step of the extraction is risky. We can only see our hands [at a] short distance. Secondly, the stones are razor sharp which is dangerous for our diving, [and] thirdly the passage is very narrow.”
The success of the excavation was a huge relief, given the boys and their soccer coach had been trapped since June 23, surviving for nine days by drinking water from the walls of the cave before they were discovered alive, the BBC reported.
And while the rescue mission was largely successful, it was not absent of opportunists. Hollywood producers hung around the cave complex in northern Thailand drumming up inspiration for a future blockbuster, while a tech billionaire promoted and delivered his mini-submarine that the rescue chief deemed “not practical.”