CHIANG RAI, Thailand – Caught in the caverns of a flooded cave, 12 boys and their football coach tried to dig themselves out as they heard voices in the dark. The coach quickly said that everyone should be calm.
"We were not sure if it really was," said 14-year-old Adul Samon. "So we stopped and listened and it turned out to be true."
This breathtaking moment – when two British divers found the missing football team – was told by the boys on Wednesday at a press conference. The boys, ages 11-16, and their 25-year-old trainer came from a hospital where they recovered after spending more than two weeks in a cave. They all looked well when they applauded in a miniature football field of classmates and reporters.
Coach Ekapol "Ake" Chanthawong said the trip took place in the cave on June 23, after football training took an hour, simply because "each of us wanted to see what was in it". But it started to rain, and soon water filled the cave and stopped her flight.
At this time, they were quite deep inside and already swam through some flooded areas in the adventurous spirit. But when he returned, he discovered that the way was not clear, and he swam ahead to explore the route, and fastened a rope to himself. He said he had to be pulled out.
"We can not go out like this," said Ekapol to the boys. "We have to find another way."
The boys told reporters about their reactions at that time.
"I was scared, I was afraid that I would not be able to go home and my mother would scold me," said Mongkol Boonpiam, 1
Ekatarat Wongsukchan, 14, said that they decided to "calm us down first, try to fix the problem and find a way out, be calm and not shocked."
The group had not taken any food and survived by drinking water dripping from the cave walls, Ekapol said, adding that all the boys could swim, which had been a concern for the rescuers.
Adul said they would dig around the spot when they heard the voices, and Ekapol shouted. He told how Ekapol had ordered them to "go down there quickly, that's the sound of a person, otherwise they'll go on," something like that.
But he said his teammate holding the flashlight was scared, so Adul said to him, "If you do not go, I'll go."
"So I quickly took the flashlight and went down quickly, and I greeted her," Hello, "Adul added.
Adul was the logical choice to tell how the British divers discovered them, because it was he who greeted the divers in English on the bleak video on July 2, which was seen all over the world ,
Chanta Jai-NgiemWhen she heard that her son Dom had been found, she was overwhelmed with emotion. She saw his face on television for the first time when Thai officials released a video of the boys in the cave after nine days.
"I cried and screamed for happiness," she said.
She said she was ready for things back to normal
"I want my son to have a normal life," she said. "I want it to stay as it was before."
Prior to Wednesday's press conference, psychologists had pre-screened journalists' questions to avoid picking up any aspects of the rescue that might upset them. The dangers of the complicated operation, in which the boys were extracted through the narrow passages in three separate missions with diving equipment and pulleys, were not discussed.
Doctors said the 13 were physically and mentally healthy. Although they lost an average of 4 kilos during the two weeks they were trapped in the cave, they have gained an average of 3 kilos since their rescue. They were treated for minor infections.
When asked what he learned from their experience, 13-year-old Mongkol Boonpiam said he felt stronger. "I have more patience, perseverance, tolerance," he said.
Adul said he had learned to "not live carefree life".
While many of the boys wanted to become professional footballers when they grew up, at least four of them said they hoped to become Navy SEALs so they could help others.
The news conference on Wednesday featured the SEALs who had saved the boys, but they used pseudonyms and wore baseball caps and sunglasses to cover their identity for security reasons.
In a poignant and emotional moment, a portrait of Saman Gunan, the former Thai SEAL diver who was killed in the rescue effort, was shown, and the team members expressed their gratitude and respect for him. One of the boys, Chanin Vibulrungruang, covered his eyes as if wiping away a tear.
All the boys apologized to their families.
"I wanted to apologize to my parents, I know Mom yells at me when I get home," said Pornchai Kamluang, 16.
Ekarat, embarrassed, said he wanted to apologize to his parents, He told them he was going to a cave, he told them the wrong one.
"I told them I would go to Tham Khun Nam," he said. "I did not tell them I went to Tham Luang, so I wondered how they found us in the right cave."
After the press conference, around 30 relatives gathered at 13-year-old Duangpetch Promthep's house to greet him, clapped their hands and cheered.
Banphot Konkum, an uncle who raised him, has tears in his eyes and hugs him.
"We will do whatever he wants," Banphot said. "If he wants something, we'll buy it for him as a gift, as we promised, when he gets out. Whatever he wants, we'll do it for him."