The 13 Thai boys and their coach, whose plight gripped the world when they were trapped in the Tham Luang cave complex in Thailand for 17 days, have expressed their gratitude for those who helped and supported them.

In a video compilation, the boys’ main message was: “You don’t have to worry now. We’re safe.”

Speaking from the Chiang Rai hospital, the boys flexed their muscles to show how strong they’re getting and spoke about their appetites and longing for crispy pork belly, barbecues… and even KFC!

The boys’ coach Ake thanked the divers, the doctors and the ministries who all worked to save them.

Several heroes have emerged from this story which could’ve turned into a multiple-tragedy. Here are just three:

Coach Ake (Ekkapol Ake Chantawong)

Officials have stressed that they want to make sure that 25-year-old Ake does not blame himself at all, after outrage was targeted at him.

According to a Facebook post by Tee Crane, it was not Ake who “lead” the boys – from the Wild Boars team – into the cave, as was widely reported at the time. Instead it was he who went into the cave to find them. She called on the public to “discover your empathy”.

Ake is the one who kept the boys safe inside the cave; taught them to meditate, stay safe and conserve their energy. He gave the boys his food rations and was the last one rescued, in the worst shape of the group.

Tee said: “He lost his entire family when he was just 10 yrs old. He became a Buddhist monk, and was raised in the monastery; he now devotes his life to young people and to the boys he coaches.”

Leandro ‘Leo’ Nicolas Gerardo, South African Diver

Leo, who attended Pinetown Boys High in KwaZulu-Natal, was one of the advanced divers in charge of chamber 3, a section which was 2,5km deep into the cave, according to Leo’s friend Dwayne Saunders.

His team’s responsibility was to pass oxygen bottles and stretchers with the boys on to the next section safely, over dangerous walkthroughs and swim-throughs.

His sister Lucia Gerardo-Schefermann said: “PROUD is an understatement! My brother is an absolute legend. Well done to Leandro and every person involved in that intense rescue operation. In the words of Jack- “Uncle Leo is so brave, like a superhero” We love you champ!”

On Thursday she posted an update thanking everyone for their incredible support and shout-outs to her brother, but pointed out that her brother is “just a humble guy who would prefer no fuss at all. There is no need to praise him as an individual but be proud of every person involved, the fantastic community in Thailand, the fallen Navy Saman (Gunan) and the end result that all those boys are doing well. Thanks again peeps! ❤”

Retired navy SEAL diver Saman Gunan

The thirty-seven year old die during the rescue after delivering oxygen to the boys. His funeral was attended by hundreds of members of the public yesterday in Thailand.

Saman risked – and lost – his life to save that of the boys. Although retired from diving, and working as an airport security officer – he dropped everything to join the rescue team as a volunteer.

Saman lost consciousness in the cave while returning the used oxygen tanks. His funeral was held with full honours, as decreed by the Thai king, and – according to the Sydney Morning Herald – hours before his cremation the king also bestowed on him a couple of high decorations for his sacrifice, including the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

All the heroes…

South African expat, Erica Westgate, who lives in Thailand said: “Hundreds of other locals braved unpleasant conditions to be on hand to cook food for those on site, clean and repair divers’ clothing, fetch and carry supplies and equipment, and ferry others around for free.
Even though the atmosphere in Thailand is one of great joy and relief, there is also great sadness at the loss of Saman Gunan… May he forever RIP.”

WATCH Thai boys thank cave divers from hospital

WATCH Report on Thai boys’ recovery

Coach Ake (Ekkapol Ake Chantawong) – 25 years old, kept the incredibly brave and resilient young soccer players safe…

Posted by Tee Crane on Tuesday, July 10, 2018

They are the real hero ❤️❤️❤️❤️

Posted by កំសាន្ត on Monday, July 2, 2018

Would just like to give a massive shout out to one of my best mates Leandro Leandro Nicolas Gerardo , his team and the…

Posted by Dwayne Saunders on Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Why It Took So Long to Rescue the Thai Soccer Team

After 17 days, the entire Thai soccer team and their coach have been rescued from the cave — here's why the operation was so difficult

Posted by NowThis on Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The relentless efforts of Thai Navy Seals, rescue workers as well as volunteers from the UK, China, Myanmar, Laos,…

Posted by Erica Westgate on Tuesday, July 10, 2018