What happened to… Thai cave rescue, Part 2 – Toronto


On this episode of What happened to…?, Erica Vella revisits the 2018 Thai cave rescue. She continues her conversation with diver Rick Stanton to learn more about the planning and logistics behind the rescue mission. Find Part 1 here.

In July 2018, Rick Stanton and John Volanthen, two divers from the U.K., found all 12 boys and their soccer coach alive; the team had been trapped for nine days in the Tham Luang cave.

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Video captured by Stanton and Volanthen showed the boys in good spirits despite treacherous conditions.

This discovery was a huge first step, but the rescue was far from over and they needed to devise a plan to get the team out of the cave safely.

“We’re going to have to sedate them, make them inert packages, and then we can just swim them out as if they’re a tube full of camping gear or some sort of the other equipment we might take into a cave for exploration,” Stanton said.

The rescue team knew more rain was coming, and they were running out of time.

“Every weather forecast we got said that it would rain in three days’ time, and the next day it said three days’ time. So we always had that three days, but clearly that would not last forever. One day it was going to rain, so that was the biggest pressure. We had to act before the cave was in huge flood again,” Stanton said.

Josh Morris is originally from Utah, but he moved to Thailand in 2000 to teach English. In 2018, he heard about the boys trapped in the Tham Luang cave. He was an experienced rock climber and had his own business, so he lent gear and staff members to help with the search before flying over himself.

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He said there was confusion between rescue groups about whether to dive, but the decision came down to one key factor.

“The only real guarantee here is that no diving means the boys will die. And diving means there’s a chance for them to live,” Morris said.

Soon after he arrived, the rescue operations experienced their first loss of life. Petty Officer Saman Gunan was a former navy diver who had been delivering air tanks when he ran out of oxygen himself.

Morris said this was a turning point in the mission and ultimately, they decided to dive.

“His death combined with me arriving at the right time, combined with people being a bit more ready to listen to certain things because there was a death, there were just all of these things kind of came together at the right moment,” he said.

The divers carefully rehearsed their plan, but there were still unavoidable question marks.

“The plan was good, except that it had never, ever been tested, as in a boy or a human sedated under water,” he said. “And that was a complete unknown element.”

Stanton felt the pressure as he worked his way through the cave’s maze of tunnels.

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“The route underwater was incredibly complex and you couldn’t see, so all our processing power was really about navigating — no excess thinking capacity to think about emotion. You set off, you knew he was breathing and you were responsible,” he said.

On this episode of What happened to…?, Erica Vella speaks with Stanton about the preparation for the life-saving dive and how a team of people was able to successfully rescue the Wild Boar soccer team from the Tham Luang cave.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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