Today’s ‘good people’ post is a little different that most, for I do not know, with a couple of exceptions, the names of the good people, nor do I have pictures of them or know anything about them … only that they are good people. The story is one we are all familiar with, one that kept us on the edges of our seats from June 23rd until July 10th. It is the story of a Thai boys’ soccer team, the Wild Boars, and 12 members of that team and their coach, who were trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks. The good people are the divers, Seals and other rescuers, of course, but also the volunteers. Volunteers came from Finland, Britain, China, Spain, Australia and the United States.
Not much is known about the many people who spent days helping in one way or another, but one woman’s story was told and I want to share it with you.
Her name is Mae Bua Chaicheun and she is a small-scale rice farmer, owning about 5 acres of land in a small village near the mountain where the boys’ soccer team was trapped in the cave. When news broke that an entire soccer team was trapped in a cave, Chaicheun dropped everything and headed to the mountainside to help. Chaicheun spent a week at the cave, cooking meals for the rescue workers and pitching in wherever she was needed. But when she returned home, she found her rice fields in ruin. The water that was being continuously pumped out from the cave during the rescue mission, along with heavy rains, had flooded the area and her rice crop was gone. But Ms. Chaicheun is not complaining. “When I got home the water was two feet deep, and the young plants were flooded. Children are more important than rice. We can regrow rice but we can’t regrow the children. I feel people have shown more love towards each other. There’s such a strong community spirit, people all wanting to help each other.” What a beautiful attitude – a beautiful woman, yes? An addendum: the Thai king has pledged to purchase all the ruined rice crops from Ms. Chaicheun and others whose crops fell victim to the pumped waters.
Rescue mission chief Narongsak Osottanakorn is calling Saman Guana, the former Navy SEAL who died during the rescue, the hero of the mission. Petty Officer Saman had completed an operation to deliver air tanks and was swimming from chamber four to chamber three, the main operating base for the SEALs and divers within the complex, when he lost consciousness.A dive buddy tried to administer first aid in the water and then got Petty Officer Saman through to chamber three, where further attempts were made to revive him but it was too late. His body was then taken to a local hospital and the Thai king said that he would have a funeral with full honours.
When rescuers began pumping water from the cave, it quickly became obvious that they needed more pumps. The call for pumps went out and pumps began arriving from all over the country. One man, Worawut Imchit drove overnight from a shrimp farm 850 miles to the south, bringing four flatbed trucks carrying four of the massive pumps that circulate water through the ponds. He then spent the next three days and nights helping to oversee the pumping operation.
“It was three sleepless days for me. I ran like a crazy man, up and down, back and forth between the pumps to make sure everything was functioning normally.”
Asaf Zmirly, an Israeli living in Bangkok, arrived with radios flown in from Israel that could operate within the cave, adjusting to the topography and creating a daisy-chain-like network.
Ruengrit Changkwanyuen, a Thai regional manager for General Motors, was among the first volunteer cave divers to show up at the scene.
Danish volunteer diver Ivan Karadzic, who owns a diving school in Koh Tao, Thailand, came and brought every piece of equipment he owned, saying he was prepared to stay for as long as it took to rescue the boys.
And then there was Dr. Richard Harris, an Australian doctor who was on holiday in Thailand when he heard the news and cut short his vacation. He initially went into the cave to assess the boys’ health, and ended up staying until all 12 boys and their coach had been rescued. Because he had cave-diving experience, Dr. Harris, known as Harry to the boys in the cave, was specifically requested by the “highest levels” of the Thai government to join the rescue. He and three Thai Navy Seal divers were the last four to emerge from the cave. On a sad note, Dr. Harris found out on the day after the successful rescue mission that his own father had died.
International rescuers included US air force rescue specialists, and cave divers from the UK, Belgium, Australia, Scandinavia, and many other countries. Some had volunteered, and some were called in by Thai authorities. Overall some 10,000 people participated, including 2,000 soldiers, 200 divers and representatives from 100 government agencies. And rescue volunteers, like Mae Bua Chaicheun, poured in from all over. They cooked for the rescue teams, helped man the pumps, cleaned toilets, drove rescuers up and down the mountain, and took the rescuers muddy clothes to a local laundromat every night.
We know the names of only the few, but each and every person who gave of themselves, their time, equipment, expertise, or other resources to rescue these boys and their coach are good people in my book, and the world owes them a heartfelt “Thank You”.