THAILAND CAVE RESCUE: Meet the elite global team aiming to pull off the most daring rescue mission ever!
The soccer team was found on Monday night after they went missing during an excursion with their coach when they decided to walk into the Tham Luang cave network on June 23.
An elite British dive team is at the heart of the ensuing rescue operation of 12 boys and their soccer coach who were found stranded in a Thailand cave last week. After days of searching, the British divers — one of the best in the world — succeeded in spotting the team huddled together on a rocky slope in the darkness, emaciated.
Although the boys have been found, the international search and rescue team is still there, considering options to get them out as authorities say that the rescue is tricky and it could take days or even months for them to be safely taken out of the labyrinth.
The search effort was reportedly led by the Thai military, including specifically trained Royal Thai Navy SEAL divers, and two volunteer British cave divers. This team succeeded in spotting the group of 12 boys aged between 11-16 and their 25-year-old soccer coach. Reports state that these divers have frequently worked together on major search and rescue operations across the world.
The soccer team, which calls themselves Wild Boar, was found on Monday night after they went missing during an excursion with their coach when they decided to walk into the Tham Luang cave network on June 23 and were trapped because of the rising waters.
The vice chair of the British Cave Rescue Council (BCRC), Bill Whitehead, said that divers Rick Stanton and his colleague Volanthen spearheaded the rescue mission. "They were pushing ahead with the other divers following behind, creating dumps of air bottles," Whitehead said.
"They managed to dive the last section and get through into the chamber where the missing party were on a ledge above the water," he added. The BCRC also released a statement saying that the soccer team is stranded nearly 1 1/4 miles from the cave's entrance and about a half mile below the surface.
Stanton, who is in his mid-fifties, is a firefighter from Coventry and is deemed as Britain’s foremost cave divers. Stanton combines his expertise in dry caving and technical diving and has over 35 years of experiencing in participating in rescue operations.
Stanton described his numerous search and rescue missions as "my hobby" in 2013 and said that his missions have been on an "entirely voluntary" basis, according to The Guardian. The United States military is also supporting an international effort to rescue the youth soccer team, defense officials confirmed to USNI News on Tuesday.
Reports state that a team of over 30 US military personnel from the US Indo-Pacific Command, including pararescue and survival specialists, arrived at the incident site on Wednesday. The US Ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies released a statement on Wednesday, saying: "The American people join Thais in celebrating the dramatic discovery of the football team and their coach in Tham Luang cave. We will continue to support Thai authorities in their relentless efforts to bring the 12 players and their coach safely out of the cave and reunite them with their families and friends.”
Reports state that the rescue teams' first priority right now is to bring food and first aid to the victims. As of now, a doctor and a nurse are inside the cave, helping the team with digestible, high-energy food with vitamins and minerals.
The team reportedly had very little to eat for the nine days. Though the families and the team are overjoyed that they have been found, rescue work seems to be hampered quite often mainly because of the constant rains and the cave's structure. Since the water is quite muddy, visibility for the rescue team is proving to be difficult. Also as some of the sections of the cave are quite narrow, the divers are not able to carry in equipment as well. The authorities are now reportedly teaching the entire soccer team how to dive as they think of other alternatives to get them out of the cave.