OSU grad led harrowing rescue mission for soccer team lost in Thailand cave

THAILAND — In the days after 12 young boys and their soccer coach first went missing in a cave in Thailand on June 23, rescuers had no idea where they were, or if they were still alive.

Expert divers from the Thai Navy SEALs, experienced in conventional diving situations, were faced with an unprecedented challenge. And an Ohio State University graduate played a key role in the team’s successful rescue.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that Narongsak Osottanakorn, 57,  now the governor of Chiang Rai, where the caves are located, lived in Columbus from 1985 to 1988. He studied geodetic engineering and surveying and earned his master’s degree from OSU in 1988.

The Dispatch reports that an article on the Nation News Network website in Thailand said Narongsak was “one of the knights in shining armor” during the rescue,” helping to launch rescue efforts when the team was first trapped.

He took on handling the media and met with families of the victims each day.

“We have two obstacles: water and time,” he said this past Sunday, as rain began to fall across the site near the cave entrance. “This is what we have been racing against since day one. We have to do all we can, even though it is hard to fight the force of nature.”

The rescue took more than two weeks. The twelfth boy and the coach were freed from the complex late Tuesday, after a complicated three-day operation to extricate the boys, who became trapped on June 23 when rising flood water cut off the exit, deep inside the cave.

In the last 18 days, what began as a local search for the 12 missing boys and their coach turned into a complex rescue operation involving hundreds of experts who flew in from around the world to help.

Ohio State thanked Osotthanakorn for his help in a tweet on Wednesday:

Read more here.