By Blake Haas
NORMAL – After becoming trapped in the Tham Laung Cave in Thailand, 12 boys and their assistant coach have been saved after a three-week rescue mission.
With dark murky waters and miles of tight claustrophobic cave diving in front of the rescue mission, members of the Navy SEALs and members from around the world rescued the boys and their coach after being trapped from flooded waters.
“It’s difficult, but it definitely requires a lot of advanced training,” said Dick Smith (also known as Scuba Dick) owner of Wild County and Midwest Diving. “You have to go through additional training in cave diving because you are in a overhead environment and should things go wrong you have to be able to handle the situation. It requires special equipment and you are in a dark environment too so you have lights with you. These guys over there [Thailand Navy SEALs] were in very murky black out lights and you run into the possibility of a silt out. Then you are in a total darkness and silt.”
As divers took on the dark cave in order to rescue the team and their coach, divers held an oxygen tank while a player or coach was behind them followed by another diver.
“The rescuers as I understand, the main man had his tank and he was also carrying the cylinder [oxygen tank] for the boys [and their coach],'” added Smith who got his start in diving in 1956. “There was a guy behind as the trail so that was a very challenging operation.”
One of the challenges of rescuing the boys and their coach Smith added was the inshoots, which are the sharp pointed rock that can injure a diver with out them seeing it.
“I think it is an incredible feat of what they [rescuers] performed,” added Smith who is PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certified. “First of all they had to go in [and] they didn’t know where they [scuba divers] were at and they were searching for them [the team and their coach]. It is my understanding that there was some current [in the flooded waters] originally and it was very murky. It’s not like walking down a hallway there is going to be inshoots and littleshoots on the site, so you are actually searching the cave as [the divers] are going through the water and you don’t know how far you are going to go.”
Smith added that with claustrophobic situations presented in the Tham Laung Cave, its difficult to keep track of oxygen gages.
“It’s difficult to read your lights and to read your gages you have to hold it right up to your face and hope that you can see it,” added Smith. “It was a very challenging rescue and I am amazed that they were able to take these young kids [and their coach] and bring them out.”
Blake Haas can be reached at Blake.Haas@Cumulus.com.