The story behind the effort to rescue children stuck in a Thai cave in 2018 is more disturbing than the tale government officials told the parents of the kids, according to a new book discussing the mission.
Members of the Wild Boars soccer team were not trained to dive and swim in a buddy system out of the cave, ABC Australia Southeast Asia reporter Liam Cochrane claims in his book, “The Cave,” published in December. Instead, they were drugged, handcuffed and carried out of the winding tunnel, according to Cochrane.
“To calm nerves, the parents were told the boys were being taught how to dive and the media reported that each of them would be tethered to an air hose and then swim out with one rescue diver in front and another behind,” Cochrane writes in his book. “This was untrue.”
Media shared images demonstrating how the 12 boys dressed in wetsuits and flippers would swim through the labyrinth tethered to expert divers. But the divers responsible for rescuing the children knew that such a plan would not work given the level of expertise required for the trip.
“Those who’d been inside the flooded tunnels knew there was no way a child who had never dived before could make it through the muddy and treacherous obstacle course,” Cochrane writes. “The only hope was to sedate them, put oxygen-fed masks with silicone seals over their faces and let the expert cave divers carry them out.”
One boy Cochrane called Note was one of the first members of the soccer team to be extracted. He was given a sedative, then injected in each leg with ketamine, an anesthesia, by an Australian cave diver, Dr. Richard Harris, until the 14-year-old boy fell into unconsciousness.
Note was then put into a diving suit, had an air tank strapped to his chest and a small full-face mask fitted. He began breathing normally within half a minute, after which the divers handcuffed the boy to prevent him from ripping at his mask.
The boys were later treated for dehydration, malnutrition, oxygen deprivation and other conditions. Doctors at the hospital in Chiang Rai, Thailand, where the boys were treated, monitored the kids for symptoms of diseases caused by animals and fungi in the cave. (RELATED: As World Celebrates Thailand Cave Rescue, Fears Of Disease And Infection Loom)
The cave rescue itself became a source of controversy after tech entrepreneur Elon Musk called British diver Vernon Unsworth, who assisted in the rescue, a pedophile. Musk was upset after the veteran diver called a submarine the Silicon Valley billionaire’s team developed a “PR stunt.”
Musk tweeted on July 6 that he was sending engineers from his companies SpaceX and The Boring Co. to assist in the rescue in any way that they could. The Tesla CEO later apologized.
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