ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - After three days of intense and dangerous deep cave diving, the final group of a soccer team and their coach have been successfully rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand.
It's been a story followed closely across the United States, but even more intensely in Thailand where a Twin Cities restaurant owner was visiting as the drama unfolded.
Thai Navy SEALs guided the young players through dark and narrow passageways. The rescue was made all the more difficult because none of the group had diving experience and most couldn't swim. The precision of the effort impressed diving experts.
“The greatest thing you have to worry about is obviously breathing oxygen and just keeping them calm as they snake through that maze of that cave system," said David Rutherford, a former Navy SEAL.
The rescue brought sighs of relief in Thailand and in Minnesota as the world tentatively waited for updates. Among the many watching were Chonthi Phronmgam and her family, who own On’s Kitchen Thai Cuisine in St. Paul.
“This story was everywhere on the news, when you wake up, breakfast, lunch, dinner, everyone hears about it - there’s no way that nobody knows,” said Chonthi Phronmgam.
Phromngam and her family were on their annual trip to Thailand when the team first became trapped.
“Everyone was like praying for everyone to come out safely, we all pray that nothing happened to them, pass away or any injury like that,” said Phromngam.
The intense worldwide interest in the story greeted them when they re-opened the restaurant. Phromngam followed the progress of the rescue until the very end.
“My friend was watching every day, and I always ask him, how was it?” she said. “Everyday, from morning till night and I just follow up with him. Now that I know that all of them are coming out safely, so we’re all happy.”
The five people extracted Tuesday are in hospitals as are the eight young people rescued from the cave on Sunday and Monday. All are doing well.
President Donald Trump tweeted his congratulations, saying the rescue was a beautiful moment.