Thai cave rescue: A tribute to the human spirit

1 News Correspondent Kimberlee Downs in Chiang Rai says the rescue of 12 young footballers and their coach shows the best of humankind.

I want you to remember the name Saman Gunan.

A cast of divers, doctors and Navy SEALS combined their talents and bravery to carry out the seemingly impossible. Source: 1 NEWS

He was 38, a former Thai Navy SEAL. When he heard about the plight of a group of young footballers and their coach, trapped in a cave and facing seemingly insurmountable odds, he didn’t hesitate. He volunteered. 

On Friday, Gunan lost his life during what would eventually become one of the most compelling, elating, rescue stories in modern times. 

His would be the only life claimed by the Tham Luang caves. 

He is a hero. 

After Gunan’s death - he ran out of oxygen on his way back from placing air tanks along the cave’s escape route - Thailand’s Navy SEALs said his sacrifice wouldn’t be in vain. 

Four Thai Navy SEALs came out safely after being underground for days helping rescue 12 young footballers and their coach.
Four Thai Navy SEALs came out safely after being underground for days helping rescue 12 young footballers and their coach from caves in Chiang Rai. Source: Facebook/Thai Navy SEALs

A team of international divers and SEALs continued the work, eventually rescuing the entire team over three precarious days. 

For some it meant days of hours-long journeys. They had to navigate murky, cold waters, narrow passageways you could barely squeeze a person through. 

Some had the pressure of towing young boys behind them - many of whom couldn’t even swim. 

Others stayed deep in the underground cave, keeping the boys company and helping treat them. 

All knew time was of the essence, and that the rainy season could strike a cruel blow any day. 

They are heroes too. 

Then there are those who won’t get the same plaudits, but went out of their way to help in any way they could. 

The volunteers who worked in all sorts of capacities to support the rescue effort - cooking, translating, clearing trash. 

1 NEWS’ Correspondent Kimberlee Downs from Chiang Rai, Thailand, following the successful completion of the rescue. Source: Breakfast

The local shop owners who offered up power to keep the media’s equipment going. 

All compelled by the story of the Wild Boars: Lost deep underground, found alive against the odds, feared trapped for months, remarkably rescued in a two-and-a-half week ordeal. 

It sounds like the stuff of Hollywood - film producers are apparently already poking around. 

But this is one of those times when the true story is more compelling than any movie dramatisation could hope to be. 

“We don’t know if this is a miracle, science or what,” the Thai SEALs posted on Facebook, in the hours after the last of the group made it out. 

I’d submit another option. That it’s the best of the human spirit: endurance, compassion, selflessness, bravery, that means we can now celebrate this mission being completed. 

And as the world celebrates the improbable, heart-warming, captivating rescue of the Wild Boars, it should never forget the heroes who made it possible.