Report of Thailand Cave Rescue in 2018

On June 23rd 2018, 12 Thai boys of the Wild Boars soccer team went to explore the Tham Luang cave as a birthday gift for Night, a member of the Wild Boars who would turn 17 that day. However, they were trapped deep inside a cave underneath a mountain due to heavy floods in the rain season. The world held its breath for more than two weeks, and fortunately, they were all saved with intactness.

Peaceland Foundation actively focused on this issue and quickly assembled a team with experienced divers and landed in Thailand six days after the accident. 

The Chinese rescue team's operation began with information gathering online. Yahui Zhao and Shuo Li in Peaceland Foundation instantly detected and shared details of this accident and initial investigation from Thai authorities in the Peaceland Foundation group chat. On June 28, Ke Wang, the founder of Peaceland, urgently recruited members with needed skills such as diving and mountain rescue experience. He also called his diving coach Xiaolong Tan whose profession allowed the team to better handle cases of cave diving. 

Flight MU2569 from Beijing arrived at Chiang Mai at 3pm on June 29th. The continuous precipitation during the rainy season constantly washes away the mountain, leaving bare land and mountains could still be seen. 

The undesirable conditions made the rescue more complicated. 

The 10-kilometer-long "Sleeping Beauty" cave has many sunken, narrow passages that wind and twist. To make a breakthrough into the cave, even in the precondition of figuring out the right path, the rescuers need to first force a way through the turbid torrent of water coming in the opposite direction. The jagged stalactite edges in the water and the littered water impeded the fugitive ideas of protruding into the interior cave. There was also no way for them to navigate in the nearly-zero visibility conditions.

On June 30th, Peaceland’s team members finally received the signals and instructions to quickly put on their equipment and prepare to enter the cave. The international rescue consortium, mainly from Thailand, the United States, Australia and China, transported a steady stream of gas cylinders and supplies to the cave, with the intention of establishing a cylinder supply storage area at Camp Three to supply the gas cylinders for several divers, mainly from the British Cave Diving Association. 

Passed the Pattaya Beach and continued to dive down, the international recuse team found the children and their coach on July 2nd. But it was still too early to celebrate, the problem of how to take them out safely befell to the team members. 

On July 8th, thirteen international divers, one anesthesiologist, and five Thai Navy divers conducted the first rescue operation. A large number of international teams, including the Chinese one, were stationed outside Camp Three to assist in the rescue.

After repeatedly testing and confirming the carrying capacity of the rope and transport stretcher, the rescue began. The kids, one by one, were safely protected and passed by the equipment and on the hands of the international rescue team members. However, after watching the children being sent out of the cave, the U.S. team stationed at Camp Three and members of the Thai Navy Seals were in danger. The pump inside the cave suddenly burst, and the water which had been previously pumped out quickly poured back into the cave.

The last Thai officer to exit the cave assisted the Chinese team in removing the zip line system. While passing through a section of deep water where he needed to pull the road rope forward, the rope suddenly broke and the Thai officer immediately sank into the water. At that instant, before the water level continued to surge over the rescuers’ heads, Xiaolong Tan at the exit of the cave quickly half-leaned down, grabbed the officer's hand, and pulled him up. Within a few seconds, the rest rescuers all rushed out of the cave safely.  

The Chinese rescue team was the last group to come out of the cave, staying inside for nearly 11 hours. The rescue road rope, however, was not removed and was left in the cave as a way to commemorate the meaningful rescue of the century. 

As the core international rescue team, Peaceland Foundation played a key role in figuring out the rescue plan.  Peaceland Foundation, U.S. Army and Australian rescue team worked together tacitly in cave diving, the transportation of rescue equipment, the setup of the rope system and the transfer of the trapped children. At last, the international cooperation led to the successful end of the rescue.

After the success of the rescue operation, the Chinese volunteer rescue team, together with other international rescue forces, received thanks and commendations from the King of Thailand and the government.