ONE Championship athlete Pongsiri Mitsatit, 22, is not only one of the most decorated mixed martial artists of Thailand. A Pingnakorn Rescue Chiang Mai volunteer group member, he also offers his spare time to help out in situations when duty calls.
Recently, the Wild Boars soccer team members and their coach who went missing for several days were discovered to be stranded in a Chiang Rai cave complex. Mitsatit jumped at the opportunity to help rescue efforts in any way he could.
“We drove to Chiang Rai in the early morning, worried about the children,” Mitsatit narrated. “But I knew our team was very capable, and I knew we would do everything we could to find them.”
“Many people from all over the world came to help,” the ONE Championship fighter added. “It was a joint effort and a great sight to see everyone coming together for a common goal.”
The children, aged 11-16 years old, were exploring the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system on June 23, 2018 when torrential rain and flash floods quickly filled up the entrance and trapped them inside. Forced to seek shelter and to escape the rising floodwaters, the team and their coach ventured further into the cave system, reaching an elevated sandy area where they sought refuge until help arrived.
A major search and rescue operation was launched with efforts to drain the cave just enough so that Thailand’s Navy SEAL divers could go in and extract the victims. After some time, authorities were able to discover where the group had been holed up, and rescue operations were quickly underway.
Navy divers and volunteer rescue teams, including Mitsatit’s unit, worked together, traversing murky waters, treacherous cave chambers and narrow passageways. Divers had to use several heavy equipment such as oxygen tanks and various rock climbing gear in a complicated operation.
When rescuers reached the area where the footballers were discovered, photos and videos sent from the rescue team showed the boys smiling for cameras even after nearly two weeks of being trapped in the cave.
Family members of the young footballers were ecstatic and celebrated the news that their children had survived the ordeal and had been found without major physical injuries. Mitsatit felt blessed that he was able to help.
Here is a live coverage of the Thai cave rescue: