UK divers battle elements, find team in good spirits

UK divers battle elements, find team in good spirits

John Volanthen, left, and Richard Stanton (photo by Patipat Janthong)
John Volanthen, left, and Richard Stanton (photo by Patipat Janthong)

Two highly experienced British cave divers were the first to reach the trapped football team on Monday night, after several days spent battling strong currents and the cavernous geography of Tham Luang Cave in Chiang Rai.

The two men, John Volanthen and Richard Stanton -- rescue volunteers working under the British Cave Rescue Council -- joined the rescue mission on Friday. They dived that day but were forced to turn back due to the severity of the flooding.

After a failed first attempt, time was on their side on Monday. About 60% of the water had been drained out and the rain had stopped. They started diving at 4:30am and advanced a further 1,500 metres in partly open and partly flooded passageways.

The two men edged closer to "Pattaya Beach", where the boys were believed to be harbouring, but upon arriving they found the 12 boys and their coach were not there. The pair pressed on.

At 9:38pm they found all 13 sitting on a raised ledge about 400m from Pattaya Beach. The team, still wearing their football jerseys, appeared surprisingly healthy, calm and -- unsurprisingly -- hungry. They asked what day it was and if they could eat.

Rescuer: "How many of you?"

Boy: "Thirteen."

Rescuer: "Thirteen? Brilliant.

Boy: "Yeah. Yeah. We going today?"

Rescuer: "Not today. Not today. It's two of us. You have to tell them. We are coming. It's okay. Many people are coming. We are the first."

Britain was one of seven countries that provided rescue assistance.

While the boys were in good spirits, their coach looked the most frail. He had reportedly given them most of his share of their meagre rations.

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