U.S. divers to join rescue of Thai soccer team that could happen as soon as today

By Dan Calabrese

They really have no choice. As extreme as the idea seemed to leave them in there for months until the water recedes, you had to consider it when you took into account just how dangerous this dive is going to be. It’s dangerous enough that it took the life of an experienced Navy SEAL just yesterday.

But now they’re expecting more heavy rain, and it no longer sounds feasible to wait out the receding of the water. As dangerous as the dive is, it sounds like it will be the only way to save the boys – none of whom can swim, by the way. Oh, and might not even be able to wait until tomorrow because that’s when the next round of rain is expected.

Unless authorities are willing to simply abandon the team – and there’s no indication that’s the case – this has to happen, pretty much immediately:

If approved, the first phase of the plan — which involves the ongoing process of staging equipment and clearing obstacles in the cave — could be completed by 6 p.m. local time Saturday. The second phase — which calls for dangerous and risky “buddy diving” of the soccer team, in which they would each be accompanied by an experienced diver out of the cave network — could start as early as Sunday morning local time.

U.S. dive and medical personnel will support the proposed operation by staging equipment and setting up triage stations, but will not go beyond the third chamber inside the cave, according to the document.

Narongsak Osatanakorn, the Thai official in immediate charge of the rescue operation, told reporters at a news conference late Friday that the plan was to bring the boys and their coach out of the cave the same way they initially entered two weeks ago. The group is currently learning how to breathe underwater using dive equipment, he said.

During a news conference Saturday morning, Osatanakorn said they would pull back some of the rescuers inside the cave in an effort to preserve oxygen levels.

“We have experienced a lot of people fainting inside,” he told reporters. “We want to keep the headcount minimal, but we’ll always have four people with the kids and we’ll work hard to bring as many oxygen tanks into that area as we can.”

The recent death of a former member of the Royal Thai navy inside the cave who was working as a volunteer rescuer has hindered some progress that was already underway. Saman Gunan lost consciousness underwater during an overnight operation delivering extra air tanks inside the cave, along the treacherous route divers take to get to the trapped soccer team. He could not be revived and was confirmed dead early Friday morning.

I am no expert on diving, but it sounds like the risk is mainly due to the length of the dive and the difficulty of maintaining enough oxygen supply while you try to complete it, exacerbated by the fact that you are basically carrying a second person who also needs oxygen and who can’t contribute much to the progress of getting out because he can’t swim.

We really need to pray for these people. This sounds extremely precarious and there is no guarantee of success, or even survival, for anyone involved with it. Here’s a live video feed from ABC of the preparations for the rescue attempt:

One thing I will say about this story, though, is that it’s good to see the humanity at work here. It would be easy to say that the people trapped made their own beds, and that they don’t deserve to have others risk their lives to rescue them. But that’s not how we do things in civilized society. We value people’s lives – even people who make serious mistakes and put themselves in jeopardy – and that’s one of the reasons those who work in first-responder fields are true heroes. Not all the people they help deserve the help, but that’s not an issue. It’s your job to help people, and you do it, end of story.

Let’s just pray that the end of this story is triumphant and not tragic.

Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!