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‘We Were Fully Expecting Casualties.’ Thai Soccer Team Rescuers Open Up About Their Harrowing Mission

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Hours after their dramatic mission concluded, some of the rescuers who saved 12 Thai soccer players and their coach from the flooded Tham Luang cave are opening up about the 18-day ordeal — which, at first, looked unlikely to end happily.

“When you look at, historically, anyone ever doing this, there’s no precedent that’s been set,” Maj. Charles Hodges, a mission commander for the U.S. Air Force who was involved in the rescue, said on Today Wednesday. “We looked at this and we thought this has a very low probability of success…In my mind, the potential chance of success was anywhere from 60 to 70%. We were fully expecting casualties.”

Hodges added on CNN that, “The whole time we had doubts on this…Every other option was quickly leading to dead ends. And even though this was extremely risky with a low probability of success, there were no other options.”

On Tuesday, however, the rescue team successfully pulled the last four boys and their coach from the cave — just hours before a water pump malfunction flooded the cave, CBS News reports. (While the entire team was rescued successfully, a former Thai Navy SEAL died during the rescue.)

“Even though the odds seemed impossible what I’ve always been taught is to take risks and be bold when the situation calls for it, and this situation absolutely did,” Hodges said on CBS This Morning.

The boys and their coach are reportedly in generally good health and spirits despite the ordeal, and are recovering at a hospital, where some have been given antibiotics for low white blood cell counts and some have been treated for lung infections, according to CBS.

Master Sgt. Derek Anderson, who was inside the cave during the operation, praised the boys for their bravery throughout the harrowing experience.

“I think we can all be proud,” Anderson said on Today. “Those boys are heroes. They were extremely brave to have to go through something like this. I’m really glad that everybody, at the end of the day, can walk away with a smile, to include the rescuers, the families and the boys.”

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Write to Jamie Ducharme at jamie.ducharme@time.com