Parents of Thai boys trapped in cave write touching letter to soccer coach
On June 23, 25-year-old soccer coach Ekapol Chanthawong took the Wild Boars team deep into the Tham Luang Nang Non caves. The 12 boys, who are between the ages of 11 and 17, were going to write their names on the walls as part of an initiation ritual. However, torrential rains flooded the caves, trapping them 2.5 miles inside the complex underground system.
An international rescue team began working around the clock to locate the boys. Parents set up camp outside, hoping for news, but fearing the worst. Cave diving is incredibly dangerous, due to lack of visibility, strong currents and narrow passages. But miraculously, after nine days of searching, divers discovered the missing soccer team alive.
But locating the boys was only half the battle. Extraction would prove to be difficult, due to the perilous conditions. The water was rising and the boys were losing oxygen. With monsoon season beginning, the weather would only get worse. It took diving experts five hours to reach the boys and one retired Thai Navy SEAL, Saman Kunan, died from a lack of oxygen. How could 12 boys with no diving experience be expected to make the same journey, and survive?
As they waited for salvation, the boys read letters from their parents and wrote them messages in return. Chanthawong, or Coach Ek as the boys called him, wrote a letter to the parents: "I promise I will care for the kids as best as possible. I want to say thanks for all the support and I want to apologize to the parents."
The mission seemed impossible, with the death of diver Saman Kunan casting a dark shadow. But incredibly, following a three day operation by the Thai Royal Navy and Thai Navy SEALS, all thirteen individuals were successfully rescued. The news was greeted with international jubilation.
The boys were trapped in the cave for 18 days, and Coach Ek was the last person to be rescued from the cave. When he emerged, he was suffering from hypothermia, dehydrated and shivering. Authorities discovered that he sacrificed his rations of food in order to keep the boys live. In a touching letter written to the coach, the parents of the boys urged him not to blame himself:
"Please don't blame yourself for this. We want you to rest assured that no parent is upset or angry at you. Everybody supports you.
"Thank you very much for taking care of our children. You went into the cave with our children and you must get out with them. Take our children and yourself out with safety. We are waiting in front of the cave."
The twelve boys and their coach are being evaluated by the doctors at a hospital in Chiang Rai. It is said they are in good health, although they face a long road to recovery. Hopefully this letter from the parents puts Coach Ek's conscience at ease. We wish the Wild Boars a speedy recovery and our thoughts are with the family of deceased Navy SEAL Saman Kunan.