Marion man returns from Thai cave rescue - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Marion man returns from Thai cave rescue

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MARION -- A Marion man has returned from Thailand after playing a key role in rescue operations for the boy's soccer team trapped inside a cave.

Thanet Natisri, co-owner of Thai-D restaurant, was already in Thailand working on a ground water project when he got a call from the county's military to help with rescue operations.

"I thought it was going to be a simple operation at the beginning because it's just kids trapped inside a cave," he said. 

However, when arriving on scene, he realized the seriousness of the situation.

"The whole place was just crowded with people. You couldn't really get in and out because there was too many cars blocking the entrance," Natisri explains. 

Natisri believes he was the only American to lead a group volunteers. He worked from 7 a.m. until sun down followed by hours of planning for 13 days.

"We had about 20 deep wells that pumped out water 24/7. I also had to lead the team of soldiers and villagers to find the sink hole where the water was going into the cave."  

Natisri says, he and his teammates, also alerted officials they were running out of time to complete the rescue mission.

"We have less than six days before the heavy rain comes in, so if we didn't do the rescue before then, the cave would be flooded." 

He says this pushed officials to start the dive rescue operations, which saved the soccer team.

Although Natisri, and many other volunteers, never got the chance to meet the team, he's grateful everyone came together.

"I'm really thankful for everyone, I mean in this situation, everybody is a hero," he said. 

Natisri says his teamed pumped and diverted about a million gallons of water away from the cave. 

That temporarily flooded a surrounding village and its farm land. But Natisri says the villagers were willing to take the risk,  in order to save the children.

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