All 12 Boys And Their Soccer Coach Successfully Rescued From Cave In Thailand

Jul 10, 2018
Originally published on July 10, 2018 6:55 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The rescue that has gripped the world has a happy ending. All of the kids and their soccer coach have made it out of the flooded cave in northern Thailand after being stuck there for 2 1/2 weeks. The rescue was an international effort that drew volunteers from around the world. U.S. Air Force Captain Jessica Tait talked earlier with ABC News.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JESSICA TAIT: It's been amazing to be able to work with our partners in such an effective way and with such a positive outcome. We're thrilled.

SHAPIRO: Michael Sullivan has been covering this story for NPR, and he joins us from Chiang Rai. Hi, Michael.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: All right. There's a delay on the line, but you got to tell us how the final chapter of this rescue played out. It took place over days, sometimes in heavy rains. What did the conclusion look like?

SULLIVAN: Well, the day started out with the governor in charge saying that the plan was to get everyone out - the remaining four boys, their coach and the three Navy SEALs and the doctor who had been staying with the boys since they were discovered by those French - by those British divers a week ago Monday. And even though this was a far more ambitious plan than the previous two days, nobody blinked. It was like, right, let's get this done. I mean, they were locked in, Ari. And even though the governor said trying to take everyone out the same day would take longer than taking four out had the previous two days, they managed to do it in about the same amount of time - practice, practice, practice.

SHAPIRO: And some of the kids didn't even know how to swim, so how did they actually physically get from point A to point B?

SULLIVAN: They were quick learners. I mean, they did this by being incredibly tough and incredibly resilient and by listening to these extraordinary specialized divers who had come from around the world and the Thai Navy SEALs who showed them what to do, how to use their masks, how to deal with the idea of swimming underwater with an air tank and how - I think this is the most amazing part - how not to freak while doing so.

I don't know about you, but I've been cave diving in the ocean before in good visibility, and I was still scared. Imagine these kids in this confined space, parts of which were barely wide enough to squeeze through where they couldn't really see anything, just having to trust these divers and follow their direction. It's amazing.

SHAPIRO: Wow.

SULLIVAN: No more homework for them this month. They've done theirs.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, no more homework. And in fact they've been offered more than a break from homework. President Trump tweeted his congratulations. FIFA invited them to the World Cup finale in Russia - might not be in the cards. I know they've got some recovering to do. How are they doing? What condition are they in right now?

SULLIVAN: By all accounts, they're doing well. We haven't heard much about the boys who just got out today. And we know that in the beginning when the British divers first found them, the coach had been among the weakest because he'd been making sure that the boys got almost all the meager food and water that they had brought in with them. But they are all safe. And the boys who got out today and the Navy SEALs and the doctor who had been with them for the past week have now joined the eight boys who got out on Sunday and Monday at Chiang Rai hospital.

And the first eight are doing well. They're reasonably healthy, though two might have minor lung infections but, other than that, healthy given their ordeal. And they're all really tired of the bland hospital food.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

SULLIVAN: They want something better. They want something spicy, something Thai. But they've been told they're going to have to hold off on that.

SHAPIRO: Well, just in our last 30 seconds or so, how long is it expected to be until they are able to go home?

SULLIVAN: They're in isolation right now, and they can't see their families - just through glass. But those big hugs and all those tears that come with them seeing their family, they're going to have to wait for a few days at least. But a senior hospital administrator said it's possible they could be home within a week. And, again, that's remarkable...

SHAPIRO: Wow.

SULLIVAN: ...Given that they spent more than two weeks...

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

SULLIVAN: ...Underground.

SHAPIRO: Absolutely. Michael Sullivan in Chiang Rai, Thailand, thanks so much.

SULLIVAN: You're welcome, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.