It was great news to wake up this morning and see that the remaining kids and their soccer coach stuck in the Thailand caves were safely rescued. Just a few days ago, the prospects of a successful rescue seemed dim. Between the extremely dangerous diving, the dire reduction in oxygen levels and the imminent monsoon rains threatening to make matters worse, it looked like everything was against them.
When the very experienced and fit former Thai Navy SEAL, Sanarn Kunan, tragically lost his life during a dive while heroically helping in the rescue efforts, the extreme danger really hit home. During his final dive, Kunan delivered life, in the form of oxygen tanks, to the trapped boys and coach and then lost his life when he ran out of air under water on his return dive.
Still, an international team of expert divers were not deterred and they continued their efforts, facing the danger head-on, to rescue these kids and their coach. And they succeeded. I suspect that the death of their brother rescue diver, as tragic as it is, helped in some way in their preparations to successfully get those kids out, in that it probably caused them to reassess their options and develop different methods of rescue to avoid a similar fate for themselves and the kids.
The entire saga was an incredible display of heroism, determination, survival, ingenuity, and international cooperation. I am sure that when more details of the rescue operation unfold, it will be an even more amazing story that will undoubtedly become a major movie (all proceeds of which should go to the fallen hero diver’s family).
Now that all of the kids are out and safe, I think it’s fair to ask the question…what about the coach?
Should he be vilified for irresponsibly placing these kids (and the rescuers) in extreme danger? Should he be forgiven for a grave mistake? Should he be seen as a hero for keeping the kids together and alive for nine days before they were found and ultimately rescued?
The coach is only 25 years old, a former monk who was orphaned very early in life. By all accounts, he selflessly cares for these kids and the community, not asking for much in return. According to a report at CNN, the community stands behind him:
“Coach Ake is a type of a guy who loves all the kids,” says 17-year-old Kae-hae Lahuna. “After we all finish practice, he always takes each of the younger kids home, to make sure they’re all safe. He takes good care of the kids and likes to spoil them very much,” he adds.
The coach of the senior soccer team agrees:
Pannawit Jongkham, the coach of the senior team, who joined the search later that same evening, says everyone associated with the Wild Boars is behind coach Ake, as they have been since the first day of the rescue.
“When he is out, everything will be the same, we will support him, nothing will change,” says Jongkham.
Still, the coach’s negligence in ignoring the warnings and continuing into the cave with these kids is a reality, and a good man has died as a result. He’s very fortunate that more fatalities were averted. No doubt, that will weigh heavy on him for the rest of his life.
What are your thoughts? A tragic, but forgivable mistake by the coach? Or must he be harshly held accountable for the death of the diver and endangerment of the kids? Or somewhere in between?