Father reacts to son's rescue from Thai cave

Adisak Wongsukchan spoke exclusively to CNN about his son's rescue from a cave in Thailand. His son, Akarat, was trapped for 18 days.

Posted: Jul. 11, 2018 1:11 PM
Updated: Jul. 11, 2018 1:16 PM

All 12 junior member of the Wild Boars soccer team have been rescued after being trapped for more than two weeks in a flooded cave network in northern Thailand.

The boys are from several schools in the Chiang Rai province of northern Thailand. In the days since their ordeal began, details emerged about their ages, favorite foods and soccer teams.

Here's what we know:

Peerapat Sompeangjai, 16

Peerapat Sompeangjai turned 16 on the day the group went missing, June 23.

On Sunday, his 17-year-old sister Phanphatsa told CNN she promised to make her brother another birthday cake -- and all his favorite foods -- on his safe return.

She added that their parents had slept at the cave every night since he went missing.

Ponchai Khamluang, 16

Ponchai Khamluang attends Ban Pa Yang School.

Pipat Bhodi, 15

Pipat Bhodi, a student at Ban San Sai School, also had his birthday on June 23, the day the boys went missing.

Prajak Sutham, 15

The eighth-grade student at Mae Sai Prasitsart School had his 15th birthday on July 1 while trapped inside the cave.

His aunt, Salisa Promjak, told CNN ahead of the rescue, "It's like I'm counting every second. I want to see his face... I am so happy."

The boy's grandmother, Kiawkham Chantaphoon, added, "Grandma loves you the most in the whole world. I miss you dearly... it's like a miracle," she said.

Ardoon Sam-aon, 14

Ardoon Sam-aon is an eighth-grade student at Ban Wiang Phan School.

Born in neighboring Myanmar, he was taken into care by the local Mae Sai Grace Church group when he was seven years old, said school director Punnawit Thepsurin.

"He's a good student, he earns a GPA of 3.94 out of 4.00. He's also a good athlete, his favorite sports are soccer and volley ball. He's very known and liked. He's a champion," Thepsurin said.

Wimonchat Jittalom, an English teacher at the school, said she was "so proud" that Ardoon had been able to communicate with the British divers who first found the boys.

"Not only did he understand the question, but he was able to answer correctly!" said Jittalom.

Akarat Wongsukchan, 14

Akarat Wongsukchan is a student at Darunratwitthaya School. His father, Adisak told CNN Tuesday that he was "so happy and appreciative" of the international rescue effort that helped free his son and the Wild Boars soccer team.

His son, along with the rest of the team, is now recovering in a Chiang Rai hospital.

"I want to hug him... and I want to tell him that I'm happy," Adisak Wongsukchan said.

Even after his son was freed on Monday night, Wongsukchan decided to stay back with the families whose children had yet to be rescued. He knew how agonizing those final moments of the rescue would feel to them.

"I promised the other parents, the five, I will wait and come out together. I'm not going to leave them. We're going to go together," Wongsukchan said.

Natthawut Takumsong, 14

Natthawut Takumsong is a grade-eight student at Mae Sai Prasitsart school. His family told CNN Sunday they were praying for his safe return, and the first thing they'll do when he's out is throw a birthday party for him.

His grandmother, Wankaew Pakhumma, has helped to care for Natthawut since he was three months old, while his mom was away working.

Pakhumma has been praying at a small shrine in their home every day for his safe return. On the night she found out the boys were alive, every house in the neighborhood came out to celebrate. Pakhumma says she was so excited that she couldn't sleep.

Mongkol Boonpiam, 13

Mongkol Boonpiam is a grade-seven student at Ban Pa Muat School.

Panumas Saeng-Dee, Duangphet Promthep, and Somjai Jaiwong, 13

Panumas Saeng-Dee is seen here with his coach and teammates, some of whom were also trapped in the cave.

Panamus and five other missing boys all attend Mae Sai Prasitsart School, where fellow classmates prayed at morning assembly every day for their rescue.

The friends were likely to have been rescued from the cave on Monday, as part of the second group aged 12 to 14 pulled through the murky water.

The fourth child in the photo is 11-year-old Chanin Viboonrungruang, who was one of the last boys brought out of the cave.

Chanin Viboonrungruang, 11

The youngest of the group is Chanin Viboonrungruang, who is in his final year at Anubanmaesai primary school in Mae Sai.

In a letter to his parents posted on the Thai SEALs Facebook page, Chanin who's known to his friends as Titun, told his parents, "Don't worry about me. I am fine. Please tell Pee Yod (a female relative) to take me to eat fried chicken. Love you all," he said.

The boy's father, Tanawat Viboonrungruang, explained to CNN that his son was referring to a promise made to the boy by his aunt go to the local KFC.

Viboonrungruang, spent most of the past few days keeping vigil at the entrance of the cave, described his son as a friendly, lively, popular boy who dreams of becoming a professional soccer player and is a supporter of both the Arsenal and Barcelona teams.

"He's been playing football since he was young, and he started it just at age 8 or 9," he said.

He said Titun had said he was going training at a local soccer field on the day he went missing, but didn't mention the trip to the cave.

"I called him on the 23rd of June at around 3 p.m., but I couldn't reach him or the coach," he said.

"I wasn't able to contact him. So I tried to contact him again at about 6 or 7 pm but I couldn't. I knew that they were trapped at around 11 p.m."

Ekkapol Ake Chanthawong, 25, coach

The boys' coach, who is also known as Ake, was the last person pulled out of the cave on Tuesday.

Although some have criticized him for leading the children into the cave, the community has rallied behind the former monk and community worker.

Ake's aunt, Thamma Kantawong said Ake was devoted to his young charges, and often took them for long bike rides in the hills.

"He loves the football team," Kantawong said. "Wherever he goes, he always has some of the kids with him. Their parents trust him that he can take of their sons."

From the dark recesses of the cave, Ake sent a letter to parents apologizing for their boys' ordeal.

In response, the parents wrote back, "We all here don't blame you and just want you to not to blame yourself."

"We appreciate all your loving support and care to our kids."

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