Why rescuing the boys trapped in a Thai cave is so complicated
Published Tuesday, July 3, 2018 12:38PM EDT
Cheers greeted Monday’s discovery of 12 boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach deep inside a cave system in Thailand -- all of whom were alive and in relatively good health. But now the complicated effort to get the boys out begins.
The 13 were located by rescue divers late Monday night following a search that lasted more than a week. And while many were hoping the boys could leave the cave by the same way their rescuers used to come in, that may not be as simple as it seems.
Rescuers estimate the boys are about 2 kilometres into the cave from the main entrance -- a long way to swim for any strong diver. What’s more, the watery path to their spot in the cave is completely dark and features many tight passages that are difficult to navigate.
Cave diving is an inherently dangerous activity -- even for those who are experienced scuba divers. For kids with no diving experience, who are already weak from hunger, and who are desperate to get to the surface, the risk that they might panic during a long dive is high.
For that reason, rescuers are also considering the option of waiting until seasonal floodwaters recede in the cave, says Christian Stenner, the Alberta provincial co-ordinator for Alberta/B.C. Cave Rescue.
“It’s tough decision for the people in charge of this incident,” Stenner told CTV News Channel Tuesday from Calgary.
“…The risk to the rescuers and to the children by trying to teach them hastily to try to dive through complicated passages may not be worth the risk.”
Not only is the cave dark, the water is also muddy with the consistency of chocolate milk, says Stenner.
“So you might have a foot of visibility ahead of you to see what you’re going through,” he said.
In order for the children to attempt the long dive that would bring them to safety, they would need to be trained in using the masks and breathing regulators of scuba equipment.
They would also need to understand the importance of staying calm during a dive, since panic can lead divers to hyperventilate and take in too much oxygen or to rip their respirators off their mouths.
Stenner says that judging by the video of the boys that was released Monday, the group seems to have managed to remain calm, even after going without food and light for as long as they have.
“It’s certainly a testament to their resilience that they kept it together,” he said.
It’s possible that officials might try to rescue the children using some other method, such as finding another closer access point into the cave where they are sitting. Stenner says even in that scenario, rescuers might choose to train the boys on scuba use, just in case.
“They may end up teaching them to dive just to give them something to focus on and to give them another option.”