Four members of the youth soccer team trapped in a cave in Northern Thailand have been rescued without the use of the pods built by the Arcata-based company Wing Inflatables.

The Times Standard reports that Wing Inflatables was contacted by Elon Musk’s engineering team at SpaceX early Friday morning with the plan of building some kind of inflatable rescue tube that could be strung through the cave. From there, the Wing team began designing a more practical rescue device — submersible rescue pods that the company built and shipped out of ACV less than 24 hours after receiving the call.

The Mad River Union reports that the rescue pods are designed to work as small submersible vessels fitted with air tanks in which the boys and their coach could be placed inside and towed to safety one by one.

However, according to multiple news reports and infographics provided by the Thai government, the four rescued boys were fitted with oxygen masks and escorted by a team of 10 cave divers.

“They hugged the boys beneath them while they were wearing full-face masks,” Head of Search Operations Narongsak Osottanakorn is quoted as saying by the New York Times during a press conference.

Although the rescue pods were picked up by Musk’s private plane on Friday night, there’s no word if the inflatables have actually been sent to Thailand at this point.

Musk responded on Twitter to questions about why none of SpaceX’s strategies — including a miniature rescue submarine — have been used thus far.

“Given Chiang Rai airport hours, soonest we could’ve departed US was an hour ago, but cave now closed for diver rescue,” Musk tweeted just after midnight. “Will continue testing in LA in case needed later or for somewhere else in future.”

According to multiple news reports, rescue teams are extremely pressed on time due to impending monsoon rain and a lack of oxygen in the cave. As a result, rescuers may have opted for the quickest rescue option available.

Narongsak, the head of search operations, told the Associated Press yesterday that flooding from new rain could shrink the space where the unsaved boys and their coach still wait.

“I confirm that we are at war with water and time from the first day up to today,” Narongsak is quoted as saying in the Associated Press article. “Finding the boys doesn’t mean we’ve finished our mission. It is only a small battle we’ve won, but the war has not ended. The war ends when we win all three battles — the battles to search, rescue and send them home.”

Click the image for more photos of the rescue posted by the Thai Navy SEALs.

The New York Times reports that the first group of boys has been hospitalized, and that it may be another 10 to 20 hours until another rescue effort can begin.

In the meantime, divers are replacing air tanks along the cave route. A task that has already claimed the life of one Thai rescue diver, who died on Friday after losing consciousness while placing oxygen tanks deep inside the cave.

There is no word if divers still plan to use the Wing Inflatables pods or any other devices devised by SpaceX during the ongoing mission to rescue the remaining eight boys and their soccer coach.


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