BANGKOK - The mother of the youngest boy rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand's northern Chiang Rai province said her son told her the team had intended to spend only an hour there and did not take along any snacks with them for the trip, contrary to previous media reports.
Ikan Wiboonroongruang told Bangkok Post on Thursday (July 12) that she had spoken to her 11-year-old son Chanintr, who is recovering under quarantine in hospital, along with other members of his youth football team following their rescue from Tham Luang cave.
All the 12 boys and their football coach were finally brought out of the cave in a massive rescue effort on Tuesday, more than two weeks after entering the cave on June 23, when heavy rain flooded the cave and blocked their exit.
Ikan, 33, said she saw Chanintr - the youngest member of the Wild Boars team - from behind a glass isolation barrier at the hospital. The team have been put under quarantine to prevent them from catching an infection while in recovery.
Ikan said her son told her the team had gone to the cave for fun after their football training session and did not take along any food with them for their outing as they had not intended on staying there for long.
Previous reports said the boys had gone to the cave to celebrate one of their birthdays and had ended up surviving on the snacks they had taken along with them.
"After the first three nights with no food in the cave, my son felt extreme hunger and cried. He had to rely only on water dripping from the rock," Ikan said.
"It was very cold at night, and pitch dark. They had to lie huddled together. The coach told them to meditate to help ease their hunger and conserve energy," she added.
The team's coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, 25, has been praised by Thai Navy Seals for helping to keep the boys alive and calm by teaching them to meditate to conserve their energy. He also provided them with sustenance by telling them to drink water dripping from the cave's walls.
Another parent, Banphot Konkham, the 45-year-old father of 13-year-old Duangthep Phromthep said his son told him the coach had used a torchlight to search for water inside the cave.
The team are expected to stay in hospital for 10 days before recuperating at home for another month, the director of the Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital, Chaiwetch Thanapaisal, said at a press conference on Wednesday.
According to the country's top public health official, all the boys are now recovering quickly.
The daring rescue mission by a team of 13 international divers and Thai Navy Seals, who brought the boys out through the cave's narrow and submerged passageways, was watched closely around the world. The rescuers have since been hailed as heroes while the team have been praised for their enduring courage.
But one of the divers who first made contact with the boys, Briton John Volanthen, has played down his efforts, saying he does not believe they should be called heroes.
"We are not heroes. What we do is very calculating, very calm. It's quite the opposite," he told Sky News after landing at London's Heathrow airport on Thursday.
"We were very pleased and we were very relieved that they were all alive, but I think at that point, we realised the enormity of the situation and that's perhaps why it took a while to get them all out," he said.
Volanthen, a 45-year-old IT consultant, also paid tribute to former Thai Navy Seal diver Saman Gunan, who joined the mission as a volunteer and died while replenishing air tanks along the rescue route.
Volanthen said the death was a "bittersweet" end to what was an otherwise "excellent" operation.