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Thailand cave rescue: Boys, coach discharged nearly a month after first going missing

The 12 members of a youth soccer team and their coach who spent more than two weeks trapped underground in a flooded cave network in northern Thailand have appeared in public for the first time since their ordeal, CNN

The boys, who were discharged from hospital on Wednesday, appeared in front of the world's media at a specially arranged press conference in Chiang Rai.

Dressed in matching team shirts, the boys and their coach appeared happy and relaxed as they took their place on a stage alongside their doctors.

The boys, all members of the Wild Boars junior soccer team, introduced themselves to the media, shared their nicknames and told the audience what position they played on the team. Sitting beside them were the Thai Navy SEALs who stayed inside the cave with them once they were found.

Ardoon Sam-aon, the boy who responded in English to the first British diver who found them, shared the story of the moment they realized help was finally coming.

He thought it was in the evening, though he couldn't be sure. The group was digging inside the cave, looking for possible exits, when he thought he heard the voices of people talking.

His coach, Ekkapol Ake Chanthawong, told the group to stay quiet. It was at that moment that they realized it was real people.

When the divers breached the surface, Ardoon said he was so shocked, all he could think to say was "hello."

Addressing a question as to why they entered inside the cave, their coach, who is known locally as Ake, said the boys were curious to look inside the cave as they'd never visited before.

They explored the underground tunnels for about an hour, before deciding to turn back around, said Ake. By this time the tunnels had become partially flooded, forcing the group to swim back towards the cave's entrance. It was at this point they realized they were trapped, said Ake.

With the entrance flooded and no immediate way out, the group retreated back into the cave to find somewhere to rest. The group weren't afraid, and thought they would be found, said Ake.

During the first 10 days, there was one particularly worrying moment that caused the group to shift course. Ake heard the sound of flowing water, and realized it was rising fast.

Ake recalled how he told the boys to get to higher ground. Concerned that they might soon be submerged, he instructed the group to start digging and look for a potential exit.

Ake said the group was very sad to hear about the case of the Thai Navy Seal who had died during the rescue effort, and felt somewhat guilty that they may have caused his death.

Authorities said that more than 100 questions were sent in from members of the media, though only a handful were selected.

All 12 players and their coach had been under close supervision at Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital, near the border with Myanmar, since they were rescued from the cave on July 10.