On this episode of What happened to…? Erica Vella revisits Thai cave rescue and the international efforts that went behind the mission to save the 12 boys and their soccer coach.
The 2018 Thai cave rescue quickly became an international spectacle, that captured the attention of people all around the world.
Twelve boys and their soccer coach were exploring the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai when the cave suddenly flooded, trapping the team. Monsoon season came early that year, and the cave became blocked by heavy rainwater.
Rick Stanton is one of the world’s most renowned cave divers and travelled from England to assist with the rescue.
“When we arrived on site, there was, it was complete chaos,” he said.
“It was hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of people milling around.”
Stanton got to work right away under difficult conditions and he knew accessing the cave wasn’t going to be easy.
“The cave was continuing to flood to the point that we could not dive beyond the third chamber. It was impossible to progress. There was a narrowing of the passage and the current was so strong. So we said it is impossible to go upstream,” he said.
Thanet Natisri is an expert in water management. He is originally from Thailand, but moved to the United States as a teenager. He often returns to Thailand to work on government projects.
When he heard about the rescue efforts that were underway, he travelled to Tham Luang to offer his expertise in hopes of helping Stanton and other divers continue their mission.
“Really, the solution was to somehow stop the currents. Make it less strong than it is, so the divers could continue to search for the boys. And in order to do that, it’s pumping out water, second is stop it from going into the first place,” Natisri said.
Stanton said conditions were inconceivable as he dove through the pitch-dark cave.
“You cannot see where you’re going,” he said.
“And at the same time feeling around for bodies, which you might have to do.
“We didn’t want to swim past them. … That’s when everything changed.”
On this episode of What happened to…? Erica Vella revisits the incredible Thai Cave rescue mission. She speaks with diver Rick Stanton about the wins, the challenges, and ultimately, how it was pulled off. She also speaks to water management expert Thanet Natisri to find out how the cave was made safe enough for divers to enter.
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