Australian doctor makes call to get weakest Thai soccer players first

Weakest Thai soccer players are extracted from flooded cave first thanks to an Australian doctor who reversed plans to bring the strongest boys out first

  • The young footballers and their coach have been trapped in flooded caves in northern Thailand for 16 days
  • Hazardous rescue operation to save 12 young Thai footballers from a flooded cave began Sunday morning
  • Cave diver and anaesthetist Dr Richard Harris, from Adelaide, assessed the boys in dive before the rescue
  • The initial strategy was to extract the strongest boys first but that was revised and weakest were extracted 
  • Remaining eight boys and coach must wait until tomorrow to be saved, Thai Public Broadcast Service said 

Dr Richard Harris is an anesthetist from Adelaide who went into the cave at the request of Thai authorities

An Australian doctor convinced Thai officials to change their rescue plans and first get the weakest boys out of the cave where they were trapped, it can be revealed. 

Cave diver and anaesthetist Dr Richard Harris, from Adelaide, dived with the rescue team yesterday afternoon to check on the 12 boys and their coach.

The initial strategy was to extract the strongest boys first but that was revised after Dr Harris, 53, assessed their strength and health, Thai media reported .

The first boy taken from the cave was Mongkol Boonpiem, 13, who emerged at 5.37pm local time.

He was in critical condition and needed urgent evacuation, a family friend told local media. His condition has reportedly since stabilised.

The boys were able to wade through some shallow sections of the underground labyrinth instead of diving. 

Dr Harris working alongside the Thai Navy and joined by 18 other Australians in the continuing rescue efforts.

He has 30 years of experience in body retrievals and even found the body of stunt diver Agnes Milowka at Millicent in 2011, The Advertiser reported.

Four of the 12 schoolboys trapped inside a cave in Thailand had their first breath of fresh air in two weeks after they were rescued in a dramatic operation.

The ‘masterpiece’ three-and-a-half-hour mission, led by expert British divers, saw the children being calmly guided to safety after 15 days of being stuck in their fetid underground prison.

Dr Harris has 30 years of diving experience and will work with the Royal Thai Navy during the operation

Nattawut ‘Tle’ Takamsai, 11, is thought to be among the four boys rescued, according to an official quoted in the Daily Beast


Saved: Prajak Sutham (left), 14, is also known as Note, and is known as a ‘quiet but sport-loving boy’. Right: Pipat Bodhi, 15

The first boy out was Monhkhol Boonpiam, 13, known as Mark. Eight other young players and their 25-year-old coach of the Wild Boars football team were chosen to remain in the cavern – half a mile deep – until tomorrow

Wearing full-face masks, the youngsters swam – for the first time in their lives – through miles of mud-clogged underwater tunnels which claimed the life of an elite Thai navy diver on Friday.

On finally emerging blinking into the daylight, the boys were hugged by their British rescuers.

They were tearfully reunited with their weeping parents – who have kept a desperate two-week vigil at the cave entrance – before being taken to hospital. 

The first boy out was Monhkhol Boonpiam, 13, known as Mark. The second boy was Prajak Sutham, known as Note.

Number three was Nattawoot Thakamsai, a 14-year-old asthma sufferer whose parents have already lost a baby daughter to cancer.

Lastly came Pipat Bodhu, 15, aka Nick, who was not even in the team but came along as a friend of the goalkeeper.

Eight other young players and their 25-year-old coach of the Wild Boars football team were chosen to remain in the cavern – half a mile deep – until tomorrow.

Ambulances have been seen driving away from the cave complex and heading for hospital 35 miles away. The most seriously ill were flown in a military helicopter

The starved and exhausted players were carried on stretchers from an ambulance to a helicopter near the caves before being flown to hospital

Thai doctors and nurses are on standby for the arrival of children after being rescued from Tham Luang cave, at the hospital in Chiang Rai province

Images from Thai TV show the boys were being brought out on stretchers to a waiting helicopter after being helped out of the water with two divers per child

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    Commanders paused the mission overnight to replenish oxygen supplies and give the rescuers a break. But they remain ‘at war with water and time’ as torrential monsoon downpours deluged the Tham Luang cave, in the hilly jungle of northern Thailand, and threatened to flood it even further.

    They said a combination of the weakest and the strongest boys had been selected to attempt yesterday’s perilous operation.

    Last night, the Thai king led tributes to rescuers and the schoolboys as scenes of joyful weeping nationwide were shown on television. US President Donald Trump offered his congratulations.

    Yesterday Note’s aunt told the Daily Mail he was a strong, caring, intelligent boy who dreamed of becoming a professional footballer, adding that he would be so excited by an offer from football chiefs to the World Cup final in Moscow that ‘he would punch the air’.


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    The mother of Mark, the first boy out, has always kept the faith. Namhom Boonpiam staunchly declared: ‘I believe he will survive.’ However, even after their ordeal is over, the children could still suffer post traumatic stress disorder, experts have warned.

    Their experience is expected to lead to nightmares, sleep problems, stomach and headaches and clinginess with parents, as well as getting angry and upset more easily.

    Dr Andrea Dese, head of the stress and development lab at Kings College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, said: ‘In the longer term, most children will recover from the initial emotional symptoms.

    A sizeable minority, 10 to 30 per cent, will however experience enduring mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety disorders and PTSD.’

    Outside the cave entrance, there was still torment for the families of the boys left behind ‘until tomorrow or the next day’.     

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      Dr Harris (pictured) assessed the boys and their coach inside the caves and deemed the weakest were ready to be extracted

      The first boy was taken from the caves at 5.37pm local time but the mission could take three days

       

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