Local man helping rescue boys trapped in Thai cave

MARION, IL — The co-owner of a restaurant in southern Illinois is playing a major role in rescuing boys trapped in a cave in Thailand.

Photo courtesy: Thanet Natisri

Thanet Natisri and his wife, Yada, run THAI-D Classic Thai Cuisine in Marion, Illinois.

Thanet told Local 6 he originally went to Thailand to work on a groundwater recharge project, which involved storing water underground, so farmers can continue to have a reliable supply of water for irrigation during the dry season.

Thanet Natisri talked with Local 6 via a video call.

But late last month, the Thai military asked him to help with the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach, who have been trapped in a cave since June 23. Thanet said he’s been assisting since June 28.

“Something could happen to them if we do not get them out quickly,” Thanet said.

Thanet is in charge of pumping water out of the cave. But because water from the outside kept seeping into the cave through sinkholes around the mountain, the water levels were not low enough, said Thanet.

“At the beginning of (Sunday), we were looking at less than 50 percent chance. You know, half of the kids may not survive because of the condition that they are in right now,” said Thanet.

Photo courtesy: Thanet Natisri

To keep the outside water out, Thanet and his team found those sinkholes and blocked them with sandbags and plastic bags. The plan worked, because on Sunday, the water level in the cave was at its lowest since the ordeal started, Thanet said. That allowed divers to begin bringing the boys out. They rescued four on Sunday and four more on Monday.

“I feel so glad that the plan worked out just fine, just like we wanted it to be,” said Thanet.

Thanet hopes to have the remaining four boys and their coach will be rescued by Wednesday, before the weather gets worse.

“When the rain comes, when the water floods the whole cave, no one’s going to be able to go in there, no matter how good you are,” said Thanet.

This photo shows the group of boys trapped in the cave.

Thanet said the boys have been able to survive in the cave for so long because their coach instructed them to be still and sleep often to conserve energy. They also have food and can drink the water that is seeping into the cave.

While Thanet remains in Thailand, has wife has been following his effort closely.

This photo shows Thanet Natisri’s wife, Yada, at their restaurant in Marion

“I’m very, very proud of him, and I’m so happy that he is a part of the mission,” said Yada.

Thanet said the mission would not be possible without help from people from around the world.

“Especially the divers from the U.K. and the U.S. and Australia. They are really well-skilled and they are the ones that do the hard part,” said Thanet.

Thanet is scheduled to return to Marion next week.


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