Out of hospital, Thai boys share lessons learned in cave

CHIANG RAI, Thailand (AP) — The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued from a cave in northern Thailand left the hospital where they had been recuperating and appeared at a news conference Wednesday, saying the ordeal made them stronger and taught them not to live carelessly.

The group, looking healthy, entered the news conference to applause from reporters and classmates and put on a quick demonstration of their ball-handling skills on a miniature soccer field set up in the hall where they met journalists from around the world.

They then hugged their friends before taking seats up front with doctors and members of the Thai navy SEAL unit who dived to help bring them out, along with others who helped them during their ordeal, which ended after more than two weeks when they were rescued last week.

The boys, whose ages range from 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach answered questions submitted by the media, including about the lessons they learned during their experience.

FILE - In this Sunday, July 15, 2018, file photo released by Thailand's Ministry of Health and the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital, some of the rescued soccer team members eat a meal together at a hospital in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand. The youth soccer teammates rescued from a flooded cave are expected to be released from the hospital Wednesday, July 18, 2018 and to speak about their ordeal.
Banphot Konkum, an uncle who has raised Duangpetch Promthep, one of the rescued boys who was trapped in a flooded cave, speaks during an interview at his home in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. The youth soccer teammates rescued from a flooded cave in northern Thailand are expected to be released from the hospital Wednesday and to speak about their ordeal.
Banphot Konkum, an uncle who has raised Duangpetch Promthep, one of the rescued boys who was trapped in a flooded cave, speaks during an interview at his home in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. The youth soccer teammates rescued from a flooded cave in northern Thailand are expected to be released from the hospital Wednesday and to speak about their ordeal.
Banphot Konkum, the uncle of Duangpetch Promthep, one of the boys rescued from a flooded cave, wipes his eyes as he watches Duangpetch and the rest of the boys live on television recalling their ordeal in the cave at his home in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. Members of the Thai youth soccer team who were trapped in a cave have left the hospital where they have been treated since their rescue, and have held a news conference before they return to their homes.
Members of the rescued soccer team attend a press conference discussing their experience of being trapped in the cave in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued after being trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand are recovering well and are eager to eat their favorite comfort foods after their expected to go home soon.
Members of the rescued soccer team attend a press conference discussing their experience being trapped in the cave in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued after being trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand are recovering well and are eager to eat their favorite comfort foods after their expected to go home soon.
Coach Ekkapol Janthawong, left, and members of the rescued soccer team express their thanks during a press conference discussing their experience of being trapped in a flooded cave, in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued after being trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand are recovering well and are eager to eat their favorite comfort foods after their expected discharge from a hospital soon.
Rescued soccer player "Titan" Chanin Vibulrungruang reacts after paying respect to a portrait of Saman Gunan, the Thai Navy SEAL diver who died in the rescue attempt, during a press conference discussing their ordeal in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued after being trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand are recovering well and are eager to eat their favorite comfort foods after their expected discharge from a hospital soon.
Coach Ekkapol Janthawong, left, and the 12 boys show their respect and thanks as they hold a portrait of Saman Gunan, the retired Thai SEAL diver who died during their rescue attempt, during a press conference in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued after being trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand are recovering well and are eager to eat their favorite comfort foods after their expected discharge from a hospital soon.
Members of the rescued soccer team and their coach are greeted by their friends before a press conference discussing their experience of being trapped a flooded cave in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued after being trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand are recovering well and are eager to eat their favorite comfort foods after their expected to go home soon.
Members of the rescued soccer team and their coach dribble a few soccer balls before a press conference discussing their experience in the cave in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued after being trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand are recovering well and are eager to eat their favorite comfort foods after their expected to go home soon.
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“I feel stronger, I have more patience, endurance, tolerance,” said 13-year-old Mongkol Boonpiam.

Adul Samon, 14, said, “This experience teaches me not to live life carelessly.”

Several said they want to become professional soccer players, while four said they wanted to emulate the heroes who saved them.

“I want to be a navy SEAL because I want to help others,” said one.

All said they want to apologize to their parents, most of whom they had not informed in advance about the trek to the cave after soccer practice.

“I know my mom is going to punish me and I am in big trouble with my mother,” one of the boys said when asked what he expected to happen when he got home.

Doctors said the 13 were healthy in body and mind. They said the boys gained around 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) on average since they were rescued from the cave. They were said to have lost an average of 4 kilograms (9 pounds) during the more than two weeks they were trapped in the cave.

The news conference was the first opportunity the members of the team had to speak directly to the media, though video of them was released previously. Officials reviewed questions in advance to make certain none might cause damaging psychological effects.

They were asked about the moment when two British cave divers first found them and also the circumstances of how they entered the cave and got trapped there.

The Wild Boars teammates had entered the Tham Luang cave on June 23 for what was to be a quick, relaxing excursion after soccer practice. But rain began falling while they were underground, and water filled the caverns, cutting off their escape.

The British divers found the group huddling on a spot of dry ground deep inside the cave nearly 10 days later, hungry but generally healthy. An international team of rescuers using diving equipment and pulleys extracted the 12 boys and their 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.

The family of one of the boys was preparing their home for his return Wednesday night.

Banphot Konkum, an uncle who has raised 13-year-old Duangpetch Promthep, said he’ll have a renovated bedroom and gifts awaiting him.

“We’ll do whatever he wants. If he wants anything we’ll buy it for him as a present as we promised that when he gets out, whatever he wants we’ll do it for him,” Banphot said.

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