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Thai cave coach lost entire family aged 10

Friday - 06/07/2018 09:56
THE soccer coach trapped with the 12 Thai cave boys cheated death as a 10yo when a killer disease claimed his entire family.

THE soccer coach trapped with the Thai schoolboys in a flooded cave has cheated death before, aged 10, when a disease swept through his village, sparing only him.

Ekapol Chanthawong was the only member of his family who survived the epidemic which overcame his Northern Thailand home town in 2003.

The disease killed his seven-year-old brother, then his mother and ­father.

Until he was 12, Chanthawong was looked after by extended family but was a “sad and lonely” little boy, his aunt Umporn Sriwichai told The Australian newspaper.

Relatives decided to send the boy to a Buddhist temple to train to be a monk.

Chanthawong spent a decade at the temple, learning meditation and wearing a saffron robe.

He still returns to the temple to stay and meditate with other monks.

But three years ago, at the Mae Sai Prasitsart school in the northernmost district of the Chiang Rai province near a border crossing into Myanmar, a soccer team was set up.

They called themselves the Moo Pa, or Wild Boars, and began competing in provincial competitions.

Many of the players came from ethnic minorities and poor families.

Ekapol Chanthawong (above) with students at Mae Sai Prasitsart school by the mountain range housing the cave where they are now trapped.
Ekapol Chanthawong (above) with students at Mae Sai Prasitsart school by the mountain range housing the cave where they are now trapped.Source:Facebook

 

Chanthawong (right) with an aunt, was the only survivor aged ten of his family when disease swept his village.
Chanthawong (right) with an aunt, was the only survivor aged ten of his family when disease swept his village.Source:Facebook

 

Navy SEALS inside the Thai cave where the schoolboys and their coach have been trapped for ten days.
Navy SEALS inside the Thai cave where the schoolboys and their coach have been trapped for ten days.Source:Facebook

 

Chanthawang has taught the boys to meditate which he learnt at a monastery he was sent to after his family was wiped out.
Chanthawang has taught the boys to meditate which he learnt at a monastery he was sent to after his family was wiped out.Source:Facebook

Some of the boys in the team now trapped with Chanthawong in the cave had been playing for the team since they were eight or nine years old.

Chanthawong was reportedly an assistant to the team’s coach and helped trained team members after school every day, and was said to have dedicated himself to the team.

“He loves those boys very much because he lost his ­father,” Ms Sriwichai said.

The school and the Wild Boar Academy are in the Doi Nang Non mountain range, a short drive from the 10km long Tham Luang cave system.

Reports say that Chanthawong was assigned temporary manager of the Wild Boars team on the day the team coach, Nopparat Kathawong, was elsewhere.

The boys became trapped when they entered the cave system, leaving their shoes and bags near the mouth of the cave to write their names on the wall.

Dutch cave diver Ben Raymanents spoke with the trapped boys who told him it was a kind of initiation ritual.

Ms Sriwichai said the monastery Chanthawong lived in for ten years taught him to be a “healthy, physically and mentally” young man.

She said he had learned the survival skills which were now helping him and the schoolboys survive in their subterranean trap.

“I always believed that Chantawong would help them keep calm and optimistic, and he loved us very much,” Ms Sriwichai said.

Navy SEAL frogmen in the cave system prepare to rescue the boys before the monsoonal rains.
Navy SEAL frogmen in the cave system prepare to rescue the boys before the monsoonal rains.Source:Facebook

 

The boys in their subterranean prison which authorities hope to free them from as soon as possible.
The boys in their subterranean prison which authorities hope to free them from as soon as possible.Source:AFP

 

A specialist foreign diver arrives as rescue operations continue for 12 boys and their coach trapped at Tham Luang cave. Picture: Aung Thu.
A specialist foreign diver arrives as rescue operations continue for 12 boys and their coach trapped at Tham Luang cave. Picture: Aung Thu.Source:AFP

“Because he had experienced the pain of losing loved ones since he was very young … we cannot stand such tragedies anymore.”

But Chanthwong is now reportedly suffering from malnutrition, after giving too much of the available food in the cave to the boys.

Two of the boys are also suffering from the same condition, and concerns grow over the group’s mental wellbeing in the dark, claustrophobic chamber.

In the short term malnutrition causes tiredness, irritability, depression and the suppression of the immune system.

In more severe cases, breathing becomes difficult and sufferers lose interest in food or drink, not matter how abundant it may be.

The trapped boys and their coach have food enough now for four months, but rescuers want to evacuate the groups as soon as possible before cave floods again in the monsoonal rains.

There is talk of leaving the sick behind because they could not cope with the highly difficult rescue taking at least four hours over 3kms underwater and in oxygen starved chambers.

Ekapol Chanthawong will need all his survival skills to cheat death yet again.

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