The 12 members of a soccer team and their coach rescued from a flooded cave in northern Thailand finally regained their full freedom on Wednesday, walking out of a hospital a week after they emerged from 18 days trapped underground.
The Wild Boars team members, who range in age from 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old assistant coach spent at least eight days at the hospital in Chiang Rai being tested and treated for relatively minor ailments, given their ordeal. They were brought to the hospital over the course of a dramatic three-day rescue operation.
The team left the hospital just after 5:50 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday and was transported to a conference center in Chiang Rai, where they're to give a news conference -- their first opportunity to present their own first-hand account of the story which has captivated a global audience for almost a month. The conference hall was decorated as a soccer field.
Government spokesman Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said doctors, social workers and psychologists would participate in the news conference to filter questions and ensure the boys' well-being. The media would not be allowed to interview the boys after the news conference.
The Wild Boars teammates entered the Tham Luang cave on June 23 for a quick, relaxing excursion after soccer practice. But rain began falling while they were underground, and the water filled the caverns, cutting off their escape.
Divers found the group huddling on a spot of dry ground deep inside the cave 10 days later, hungry but generally healthy. An international team of rescuers using diving equipment and pulleys extracted the 12 boys and coach through the tight, flooded passageways over three days, concluding July 10.
Some of the boys were treated for minor infections during their hospital stay, but all 13 have been described as recovering well.