Teen Soccer Team & Coach Feared Trapped In Flooded Thailand Cave, Rescue Underway

Krit Promsakla Na SakolnakornThai News Pix via AP Images

What should have been the time of their lives, exploring a cave known for its stalactites and stalagmites, has turned into a nightmare for teenage soccer players and their coach, reports CNN. The Bangkok Post reports there were 11 teen players, while CNN reports 12, who entered the cave, located in Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. A search is underway to find the group after they “crawled into the Tham Luang Nang Non Cave through a narrow 15-meter long channel” and the cave flooded. They have been missing since Saturday. It appears that the rising water blocked their path out of the cave, a path that was only wide enough for one person to pass through at a given time, and therefore the group may be trapped inside the cave network, according to Kamolchai Kotcha, an official with Thailand’s national parks authority, who spoke with CNN.

“We have been working almost 24 hours but there are many limitations, the caves are pitch dark and very low level of oxygen in some areas, and scattering rains just made our task more difficult,” said Kotcha. That search team consists of local police and park officials as well as 17 members of the SEAL diving team from the Royal Thai Navy. On Monday morning, those divers entered the cave to search for the soccer team.

Officials have already had two attempts to rescue the group fail, and continued light rain, making the water levels rise, has been an ongoing issue in trying to find the group who has been missing since 1 p.m. ET local time on Saturday. When the creek’s water level rises, it can cause run-off into the cave, and when that happens, the cave is closed. Despite the cave being off-limits, a park officer realized something was wrong when he saw a motorcycle and 11 bicycles sitting along a railing by the entrance to the deep cave, along with a pair of soccer shoes and some backpacks as well as other sporting equipment, reports the Bangkok Post.

“The players usually practice at the football field in Ban Pong Pha every weekend. On Saturday, after training, witnesses saw the coach and the football players enter the cave.” Park officials ventured into the cave to search for the group, going as far as three kilometers, but when heavy rains threatened to close off their exit from the cave, they had to abandon their search. Now that they have the divers from the Royal Thai Navy, the search is ongoing.