It was the story that gripped the world: twelve boys from a Thai soccer team and their coach were trapped in a flooded cave so deep underground a rescue was almost impossible.
Then, as the world waited along with the boys’ anxious families, a brave yet difficult plan was hatched to bring the members of the Wild Boars team out alive.
It would take skilled divers from around the world and even then success was not guaranteed. Days were needed to bring out the boys and there was no guarantee all of them would make it out alive.
The boys’ parents were told their sons would be swimming to safety and in the global joy which erupted after the last of the boys surfaced safe and alive, no-one questioned the method of their extraction.
But the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Southeast Asia correspondent Liam Cochrane says in his book, “The Cave“, that the boys were in fact drugged with ketamine and handcuffed on their journey out of the cave.
It was revealed during the rescue that the boys were mildly sedated to stop them panicking during the rescue — but the truth is much more complex.
The boys received far stronger drugs, and they were handcuffed behind their backs to stop them ripping off their face mask should they wake up.
“To calm nerves, the parents were told the boys were being taught how to dive and the media reported that each of them would be tethered to an air hose and then swim out with one rescue diver in front and another behind,” Cochrane writes in his book.
“The only hope was to sedate them, put oxygen-fed masks with silicone seals over their faces and let the expert cave divers carry them out.
“But it was crucial that the masks fitted tightly, otherwise they might drown.”