Coach Ekkapol Janthawong, left, and members of the rescued soccer team express their thanks during a press conference discussing their experience of being trapped in a flooded cave, in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued after being trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand are recovering well and are eager to eat their favorite comfort foods after their expected discharge from a hospital soon. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

After cave rescue, soccer boys pray for protection at Thai temple

On Wednesday evening, the boys and coach were released from hospital

The youth soccer teammates rescued from a flooded cave began their first day back home with their families Thursday by going to a Buddhist temple to pray for protection from misfortunes.

Eleven of the boys and the Wild Boars coach kneeled and pressed their hands in prayer to the tune of chanting monks at the ceremony meant to extend one’s life and protect it from dangers. They were joined by relatives and friends at the Wat Pra That Doi Wao temple, overlooking Myanmar on Thailand’s northern border.

Only one member was absent, Adul Sargon, who is not Buddhist.

The team has already said they would ordain as Buddhist novices to honour a former Thai navy SEAL diver who died in the cave while making preparations for their rescue.

On Wednesday evening, the boys and coach were released from hospital and spoke to the media for the first time since their ordeal, describing their surprise at seeing two British divers rising from muddy waters in the recesses of the cave. It would be another week before they were pulled out of the Tham Luang cave.

“We weren’t sure if it was for real,” 14-year-old Adul said. “So we stopped and listened. And it turned out to be true. I was shocked.”

In one poignant and emotional moment at the news conference, a portrait was displayed of Saman Gunan, the Thai diver who died. One of the boys, 11-year-old Chanin “Titan” Vibulrungruang, the youngest of the group, covered his eyes as if wiping away a tear.

“I feel sad. And another thing is I’m really impressed with Sgt. Sam for sacrificing his life to let all 13 Wild Boars to be able to live our lives outside happily and normally,” said Coach Ekapol “Ake” Chanthawong. “When we found out, everyone was sad. Extremely sad, like we were the cause of this, for making the sergeant’s family sad and having to face problems.”

READ MORE: Thai soccer players rescued from cave meet the media

READ MORE: ‘No surprise’ Langley rescue diver stepped in to help, says brother

The Wild Boars had entered the cave on June 23 for what was to be a relaxing excursion after soccer practice. But rain began, and water soon filled the cavern, cutting off their escape, and they huddled on a patch of dry ground deep inside the cave.

Ekapol said the trip was meant to last one hour, simply because “each of us wanted to see what was inside.”

When the hour was up, they were pretty deep inside and already had swum through some flooded areas in the spirit of adventure. But in turning back, he discovered the way was not at all clear, and he swam ahead to scout the route, attaching a rope to himself so the boys could pull him back if necessary.

He said he had to be pulled out.

Ekapol said he told the boys: “We cannot go out this way. We have to find another way.”

The boys told reporters of their reactions at that point.

“I felt scared. I was afraid I wouldn’t get to go home and my mom would scold me,” said Mongkol Boonpiam, 13, prompting laughter.

Ekarat Wongsukchan, 14, said they decided “to calm ourselves first, to try to fix the problem and find a way out. Be calm and not shocked.”

The group had taken no food with them and survived by drinking water that dripped from the cave walls, Ekapol said, adding that all the boys knew how to swim, which had been a concern for rescuers.

Titan said he tried hard not to think about food. “When I’m starving, I don’t think of food otherwise it’d make me more hungry.”

Adul said they were digging around the spot when they heard the voices and Ekapol called for silence.

He recounted how Ekapol told them to “‘quickly get down there, that’s the sound of a person, or else they’re going to pass on by,’ something like that.”

But he said his teammate holding the flashlight was scared, so Adul told him “If you’re not going to go, then I’ll go.”

“So I quickly took the flashlight, and quickly went down, and I greeted them, ‘hello,’” Adul added.

Psychologists had vetted the journalists’ questions in advance to avoid bringing up any aspects of the rescue that might disturb them. The dangers of the complicated operation, in which the boys were extracted in three separate missions with diving equipment and pulleys through the tight passageways, were not discussed.

Doctors said the 13 were physically and mentally healthy. Although they lost an average of 4 kilograms (9 pounds) during the more than two weeks they were trapped in the cave, they have since gained about 3 kilograms (6 1/2 pounds) on average since their rescue. They were treated for minor infections.

Asked what he had learned from their experience, 13-year-old Mongkol Boonpiam said he felt stronger. “I have more patience, endurance, tolerance,” he said.

Adul said it had taught him “not to live life carelessly.”

While many of the boys wanted to be pro soccer players when they grow up, at least four of them said they hope to become navy SEALs, so they could help others.

All expressed their apologies to their families.

“I wanted to apologize to my parents. I know that I will get yelled at by mom when I get home,” said Pornchai Kamluang, 16.

Ekarat said sheepishly he wanted to apologize to his parents because while he told them he was going to a cave, he told them the wrong one.

“I told them I was going to Tham Khun Nam,” he said. “I didn’t tell them I went to Tham Luang. So I was wondering how they found us at the right cave.”

___

This story has been corrected to show the quote about the diver who died was from the team coach, not one of the boys.

Tassanee Vejpongsa And Kaweewit Kaewjinda, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Fire guts boarded-up Langley home

An early morning blaze struck a house in Willoughby

Harm reduction cutting Langley drug deaths, say social workers

Naloxone and drug testing kits are more widely available

VIDEO: Aldergrove Star editor Sarah Grochowski up for an Emmy Award

Her 2018 documentary segment Highway Mike uncovers the opioid crisis in Harlem, New York

Riverdale actress rescues puppy from Langley shelter

American actress named her adopted pup Milo

Honens International Piano Competition winner to perform in Langley

Nicolas Namoradze performs at Langley Community Music School, Saturday, March 7

B.C. residents in Wet’suwet’en territory have right to police presence: Public Safety Minister

Nevertheless, Bill Blair said officials remain ‘very anxious’ for the barricades to come down

Vancouver 4/20 event to protest ‘intolerance of cannabis’ at Sunset Beach in 2020

The 2020 event is billed as a ‘protest and farmers market’

UPDATE: Boy, 5, will donate organs after crash that killed father, son on B.C. highway

Mike Cochlin and sons Liam and Quinn were travelling on Highway 5A

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to meet today with federal and B.C. governments

Nationwide rail and road blockades have been popping up for weeks

Chinatowns across Canada report drop in business due to new coronavirus fears

Around the world, about 81,000 people have become ill with the virus

VIDEO: Province promotes ‘lifting each other up’ on 13th annual Pink Shirt Day

Students, MLAs, community members gathered at B.C. Parliament Buildings Wednesday

Prepare for new coronavirus like an emergency, health minister advises

About 81,000 people around the world have now become ill with COVID-19

Winnipeg police investigating graffiti on RCMP and other buildings

Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen denounced the vandalism

B.C. seniors’ watchdog calls for better oversight after recent problems at Retirement Concepts care homes

‘There is no financial incentive right now to be a good operator’ - Isobel Mackenzie

Most Read