PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Runners warn up before the start of a marathon and biking event in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, Sunday, June 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

When the 12 young boys and their soccer coach walked into a cave complex in northern Thailand a year ago Sunday, they didn’t know their lives were going to forever change.

Rising floodwater quickly trapped the youngsters inside the Tham Luang cave complex, setting off a more than two-week ordeal that the world watched with rapt attention and that left the members of the Wild Boars soccer club with a survival tale that propelled them into celebrities.

Nine of the boys and their coach were on hand Sunday in the northern town of Mae Sai to mark the anniversary along with some 4,000 others by taking part in a marathon and bike event to raise money to improve conditions at the cave.

“I want to thank everybody who has put so much effort and sacrifices to save all of us,” said Ekapol Chantawong, the former coach of the Wild Boars who led the boys on the ill-fated visit to the cave.

Ekapol stood in front of a bronze statue of Lieutenant Commander Saman Gunan that has been erected to honour the former Thai navy SEAL who died while working on the search and rescue.

The boys spent nine nights lost in the cave, living on very little food and water, before they were found spotted deep in the twisting cave complex huddled on a patch of dirt above the rising water line. It was a moment captured on video and soon broadcast to the world.

It would be another eight days — until July 10 — before they were all safe.

Also on hand Sunday were a number of the local and foreign divers who took part in the search and rescue operation, which due to its danger and difficulty has been hailed by many as a miracle.

The operation required placing oxygen canisters along the path where the divers manoeuvred dark, tight and twisting passageways filled with muddy waters and strong currents.

“Not many children could have survived the way they did, so we have to respect them for that,” said Vernon Unsworth, a British diver whose advice and experience played a key part in the search for the boys and their eventual rescue.

“What we should do right now is to just let them get on with their lives. Just let them grow up like normal kids,” he said.

A year later the boys are notably older and taller. Wearing orange T-shirts from the event, they smiled and posed for photos. They have grown familiar with the attention they receive, though are not altogether comfortable with it.

Three of the players as well as Ekapol were stateless and were granted Thai citizenship last August.

READ MORE: ‘No surprise’ Langley diver stepped in to help Thai cave rescue, says brother

The team travelled last year to Argentina and the U.S. The boys and their coach are represented by the 13 Tham Luang Co. Ltd., which Thailand’s government helped establish to manage business opportunities stemming from the ordeal. Netflix has acquired the rights to their story.

The Associated Press

 

Participants start a marathon and biking event in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, Sunday, June 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Just Posted

2019 Federal election: Courtenay-Alberni candidates address seniors issues

“What are your party’s plans to ease the stress realized by seniors on fixed incomes?”

WATCH: Jordan now a key member on staff at Parksville business

Disability Awareness Month celebrated around province

RDN wants to play role in Ballenas track upgrade

Bringing dilapidated facility up to standard could cost close to $1M

Qualicum Beach joins in on global climate strike

Participants urge government to adequately address climate crisis

Coombs athlete, 91, brings home five gold medals from 55+ BC Games

Buschhaus now has 217 career senior games medals

VIDEO: A moment to remember during the World Lacrosse Men’s Indoor Championship in B.C.

Diego Hernandez Valenzuela’s team lost, but he felt like a winner Saturday

B.C. VIEWS: School officials join fact-free ‘climate strike’

Students, public get distorted picture of greenhouse gases

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Iconic 90s TV show ‘Friends’ celebrates 25th anniversary

The iconic, decade-long television show aired its first episode 25 years ago today

Police arrest B.C. phone scammer linked to illegal call centres in India

Person arrested in Burnaby here on a work visa, says police

Air Canada forced girl, 12, to remove hijab: civil rights group

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations calling for change

Man from Winnipeg who was hiking alone found dead in Banff National Park

RCMP say the man was hiking alone on Mount Temple Thursday

Most Read