Twelve boys and their football coach who survived a highly risky and dramatic rescue from a flooded Thai cave spoke publicly of their incredible ordeal for the first time on Wednesday at a press conference that was beamed around the world.
A news conference with the 12 boys and their coach was being arranged for the evening in the northern city of Chiang Rai, where the boys have been recovering in a hospital since last week.
During their TV news conference the boys said when they entered the cave on 23 June they had planned to only be inside the cave for about an hour after soccer practice.
Foreign divers and Thai Navy SEALs spent three days bringing the boys out by diving and carrying them through the waterlogged corridors of Tham Luang. The boys - dressed in green and white uniforms with a red wild boar, their team's nickname - then hugged their friends before taking seats up front with doctors and members of the Thai navy SEAL unit that helped rescue them.
Appearing at a press conference beamed worldwide, the "Wild Boars" team members appeared healthy and happy despite the nine days they spent in the dark before being found by an global rescue team and extracted days later.
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They boys, ages 11 to 16, have been under close supervision at the hospital since they were rescued from the cave last week.
"I have to praise the coach who took care of the footballers very well", Lertvirairatanapong said.
They also spoke of feeling guilty about the death of a former Thai Navy SEAL during the rescue effort.
The family of one of the boys was preparing their home for his return Wednesday night.
Another, Adul Sam-on, 14, recalled the moment when two British divers found the group on July 2, squatting in a flooded chamber several kilometres within the cave complex. He added that the boys would spend time as Buddhist religious workers to honor the diver's memory.
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During the first 10 days, there was one particularly worrying moment that caused the group to shift course.
As attention turned to how they became trapped, the mood in the room became more sober. However, since Adul was busy conversing with the divers he could not translate so one of the boys told the coach to be patient. While trapped for 10 days in the dark, they said they clawed at the walls of the cave with rocks in an attempt to escape.
Coach Ek said they had planned beforehand to travel into the cave and since they meant to stay for only one hour, they did not take any food with them.
"We didn't want to do nothing and just wait for help", he said. "We tried not to think of food, like fried rice, because it would make us hungrier".
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