Waters rose, turning hour-long cave trip into 18-day ordeal

Waters rose, turning hour-long cave trip into 18-day ordeal

While the 12 soccer players and their coach, who were trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system for 18 days, are safe and recovering, the rescue effort was not without tragedy.

With them are six Australian Federal Police cave divers, one Defence diver and a support crew who have been described as integral to the rescue operation.

The rescue mission captivated the world after the group was discovered by two British divers on July 2. There was joy and relief in Thailand on Tuesday evening when the final five were freed from the cave after a tricky three-day operation.

The story of the entrapment of the boys and their coach in the cave and their dramatic rescue has captivated people around the world. In a letter last weekend he apologised to the boys' parents but they replied stating, "please don't blame yourself".

Banphot Konkum, father of 13-year-old Duangpetch Promthep, told The Associated Press his son - better known by his nickname, Dom - said the team members didn't know rain had started falling after they had entered the cave on June 23. Anderson said one of the most crucial pieces of equipment was the positive pressure diving masks, which would expel water from the mask if one of the boys panicked.

The complex operation saw four boys rescued Sunday, four more on Monday and the last four on Tuesday, along with the team's coach.

Another diver, Jason Mallinson, 50, from Huddersfield, said the team left messages for the children as they flew back to the United Kingdom saying: "We're very glad we could get you out alive". "The boys' health is improving ... relatives can now visit them in close proximity", said Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong, a health ministry inspector.

Mr Volanthen's mother, Jill, said: "We are absolutely so proud, but my sympathy is with the wife and family of the diver who lost his life".

Then the problem became how to get them back out through the tunnels, some completely full of fast-flowing flood water.

Meanwhile, doctors said the boys they saved have so far not shown any significant ill effects from their ordeal as rescuers head home. They will stay in hospital at least a week.

The Thai Navy Seals have released dramatic footage of the operation, giving greater insight into just how risky it was.

"We are humbled to have been able to provide our expertise and experience to assist in this global operation led by the Thai government".