Members of a youth football team on Wednesday told of their agonizing, two-week ordeal in a flooded Thai cave and the "magical" moment as rescuers the water emerged from the darkness and assured them help was on the way.
The 12 boys and their coaches were finally released in a complicated, three-day international mission that ended more than a week ago. They appeared on Wednesday at a press conference on television about the 70 million people who were fascinated by the history of the team.
The "Wild Boars" hugged friends and kicked a ball on a small makeshift football field. The doctors said they had gained more than six pounds on average and were physically and mentally healthy.
One player said he was startled when the first rescue diver arrived on the tenth day of the Odyssey.
"It was magical," said Adul Sam-on, 14, translated into comments by Reuters. "I had to think a lot before I could answer her questions."
The boys, ages 11-17, and 25-year-old Ekkapol Chantawong went to the Tham Luang Cave in northern Thailand on June 23 to explore around an hour, said the coach. They had just finished an exercise and participated in a teambuilding exercise.
Related: The Thai football team dug a 16-foot hole into the cave wall before the rescuers arrived, even though they had nothing to eat
The boys initially wandered in, but later waded through the water , Heavy rains soon caused a wall of water to flow into the cave, flooding sections and blocking their exit. They were trapped more than two miles from freedom.
Divers found them huddled and hungry after 10 days. But it took another week to design a plan to free the boys. A team of more than 100 rescuers from a dozen countries eventually rescued them, but not before a former Thai naval diver passed out and died of oxygen deprivation while helping to build the escape route.
Also on Wednesday a military doctor who stayed in the den with the team for a week after they were found frightening details about the boys' escape attempts before they were rescued.
Lt. Col. Pak Loharachun said in a post on Facebook that boys aged 11 to 17, used rock fragments to dig themselves into the cave wall every day, even though they had nothing to eat. Incredibly, they managed to dig a 16-foot hole, he said.
The military doctor also praised her coach Ekapol Chanthawong, who constantly thought of the welfare of the boys over his own.
"I saw from the first day that Ek was waiting for the boys to satisfy their hunger at first, and he gave his food to the boy," he said in the post.
The National Tourism Bureau published a short video that thanked the global community for their contributions to the rescue.
Post: Ashley May, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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