Thai cave rescue: how young coach kept 12 boys calm and safe
Ekaphol Chanthawong, 25, hailed as hero despite initial criticism for leading group into danger
All 12 of the boys rescued from a cave in Thailand “took care of themselves well” during their two weeks trapped underground, according to medical officers.
The last four of the young footballers and their 25-year-old Wild Boars team coach were carried out of the Tham Luang cave system on Tuesday, on the third and final day of what has been lauded as the “largest, most complex cave rescue in history”, Sky News says.
Particular praise has been heaped on the heroic actions of the coach, 25-year-old Ekaphol Chanthawong, who initially faced intense media scrutiny for leading the boys on their almost fatal excursion.
“As the man who placed his 12 young charges in mortal danger by taking them deep into a mountain cave system, the young coach of the Wild Boars football team could easily have been cast as the villain of one of the greatest rescue stories of recent times,” The Daily Telegraph says.
Instead, Chanthawong’s selfless behaviour while trapped in the caves, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, has seen him “being hailed by relatives of the boys as the quiet hero of an adventure that so nearly ended in tragedy”, the newspaper reports.
When the boys were first found sitting in the dark more than a week ago by two British divers, they were meditating - something Chanthawong is well schooled in, thanks to his training as a Buddhist monk.
Chanthawong went to live in a monastery at the age of 12 after being orphaned, Vox reports. He trained to be a monk for ten years, but left to care for a sick grandmother.
According to the news site, he taught the team to meditate while in the cave on order to keep them calm and preserve their energy during their two-week ordeal.
He is also understood to have given the boys his, extremely limited, food rations.
Business Insider says that his care of the children is a “key reason” the boys’ parents may not press charges.
“At first, he got lots of blame,” Chatnarin Bumpenwattana, an associate lawyer at JTJB International Lawyers, told the site. “But the news appeared that he properly took care of the children and that he gave his food to the children, so there is not much anger against him right now.”