Video of high risk rescue in Thai cave

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Twelve football players and their coach were rescued on Tuesday from the flooded cave in Thailand in which they had gone missing since June 23.

Indeed, it was almost another week before the first of the "Wild Boars" soccer team was brought out of the cave by elite divers who had, with Thai special forces, planned the rescue meticulously - but quickly, as more rains threatened.

Derek Anderson, 32, a rescue specialist with the U.S. Air Force based in Okinawa, Japan, told the Mail that crews ensured the boys were "tightly packed" so divers could maintain control and adjust their air supply as needed.

Thai officials have been generous with their praise of foreign volunteers who were essential in the complicated search and rescue operation, including Mr Volanthen and Mr Stanton who were the first to discover the boys.

Weenas Srisook, director of the provincial administration registration, said Mae Sai authorities are now reviewing each team member's proof of identity, adding that top ministry officials have ordered they find a way to grant them citizenship within the law.

"Some of them were asleep, some of them were wiggling their fingers". The diver who spoke to AFP said the boys were "groggy" but "breathing" when he helped to pull them out, while the BBC reported that according to divers, the boys were "heavily sedated to avoid anxiety".

He did not say if the coach, the only adult with the boys for nine days before they found, was able to dive and walk out unaided. He said his wife grew up with Samarn Poonan, the former Thai navy SEAL who died during the mission.

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Thailand's junta chief told reporters on Tuesday that the group had been given a "minor tranquiliser" to help calm their nerves. "They are assisting in transporting the evacuees through the final chambers of the cave system, and are providing medical personnel and other technical assistance to the rescue efforts".

"By the time the last diver was out the water was already at head level, nearly to the point where he needed an oxygen tank".

"If you didn't use the water pump in that location, you could only come out with an oxygen tank", ex-SEAL Com Chaiyananta said.

Thailand spent yesterday celebrating the successful mission. None of the children, aged between 11 and 16, were strong swimmers let alone competent divers.

The exact mechanics of the rescue bid were closely guarded during the operation, but details have since dribbled out.

"We were pleased and very relieved that they were alive", Volanthen said.

"The cave was dry when we arrived, and within an hour and half it had already filled up by 2 to 3 feet and we were being pushed out", said Anderson, the son of missionaries, who was born in Syracuse, New York, and grew up in Ecuador. That ultimately proved not to be an option when oxygen levels within the tunnels dropped to risky levels.

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