Thai boys smile and wave to the camera from hospital beds in first footage after their nearly impossible rescue operation
The remaining four school boys and their 25-year-old coach were successfully rescued as they were pictured being carried out on stretchers on Tuesday.
First footage of the 12 rescued Thai boys and their coach was released on Wednesday, days after being saved from a flooded cave in a nearly impossible rescue mission. The boys were pictured smiling and waving at the camera from their hospital beds as they recuperate from their harrowing experience after being found emaciated in the dingy underground cavern.
The video from the hospital showed some of the boys making "victory" signs as they appeared to smile from behind their green surgical masks. The boys have been kept under observation in an isolation unit in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand as doctors run their blood and urine tests to ensure they weren't infected from their stay in the bat-riddled cave.
The remaining four school boys and their 25-year-old coach were successfully rescued as they were pictured being carried out on stretchers on Tuesday after surviving for 18 days in the Tham Luang cave complex as the three-day "miracle" rescue operation came to an end.
The soccer team, which calls themselves Wild Boar, was found on Monday night last week after they went missing during an excursion with their coach when they decided to walk into the cave network on June 23 and were trapped because of the rising waters.
The video also showed the boys' parents crying and waving to them from behind the glass windows as they are not allowed to touch their children yet due to the risk of possible infection.
The footage of the boys, who appeared healthy, was shown at a press conference held by the head of the entire rescue operation, acting Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn. The chief, during the conference, praised the boys and called them "heroes."
Osottanakorn said that he believed that the players of the football team would "grow up to be good citizens," and added that children were all "healthy and strong."
The director of Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital, Chaiwetch Thanapaisal, at the press conference said: "Don't need to worry about their physical health and even more so for their mental health. Everyone is strong in mind and heart."
It was also revealed at the conference that the order in which the 12 boys were rescued from the cave was decided by their football coach, Ekaphol Chantawong, who was also stranded in the cave with them.
It was earlier reported that it was a specialist doctor from Australia who had decided the order in which the children would be rescued, propagating for the weakest to be rescued first after a health assessment.
However, Navy SEALs commanderr, Rear Adm. Apakorn Youkongkae, on Wednesday said that it was the football coach who had made the call on which child should be rescued first.
"I haven't asked the coach yet why he chose that order. The coach was the one to choose," Youkongkae said.
U.S. Air Force rescue specialist Derek Anderson described how the boys and their coach remained "incredibly resilient" during their two weeks inside the cave.
"What was really important was the coach and the boys all came together and discussed staying strong, having the will to live, having the will to survive," he said.
A footage of the moment some of the boys were taken out of the cave, carried on stretchers and seemingly sedated was released on the Thai Navy SEAL's Facebook page. The clip showed how complex the entire rescue operation was where international and Thai divers came together to haul the children to safety with the use of pulleys, ropes and rubber pipings.