‘Thirteen Lives’ Ending Explained: Did everybody survive the cave disaster?

Thirteen Lives Plot Synopsis

In 2018, a group of young boys and their football coach were trapped in the Tham Luang cave system when heavy rainfall caused a flood that blocked their exit.

Ron Howard’s new film dramatizes this event and focuses on the rescue mission to save them. Did everybody get out of the caves alive? Or was the mission to save these thirteen lives an impossible one?

Let’s take a closer look at this gripping true-life movie.

How did the boys get trapped in the cave?

The trip to the Tham Luang cave was meant to be a happy moment for the boys and their coach as it was the first part of a celebration for one of the boys’ birthdays.

As Monsoon season was still a few days away, the chances of heavy rainfall were slim. Unfortunately, the weather can never be predicted. After the team entered the cave, the rain began to fall and the cave system quickly became flooded.

When the boys didn’t return home for the planned birthday party, their parents understandably began to get worried.

After being alerted to the danger the football team were in, the local governor actioned a rescue mission. This involved the Thai Navy SEALS, who were asked to enter the flooded caves, and a British cave dive rescue team who were called upon to lend their expertise. Thousands of other people were called on to help from other countries, but despite the great number of volunteers involved, there was no guarantee that the thirteen people inside the cave would make it out alive.

How was the rescue operation conducted?

Volunteers were called upon to pump water out of the caves and to divert the water from the sinkholes that were letting the rain into the tunnels and caverns of the cave system.

The professionally trained Navy SEALS were the first to try to enter the caves but due to the rising floodwater and the complexities of the cave interior, they failed to find the thirteen people trapped inside.

Expert cave divers John Volanthen, Rick Stanton, and several of their diver friends, were then asked to get involved although Rick was pessimistic about their chances to get the boys and their coach out alive.

They dived into the caves anyway and after a short search, they found the lost football team. Thankfully, the boys and their coach were still alive but despite John’s reassurance to them that they would be rescued, Rick remained worried that they wouldn’t be able to get the team out of the cave still breathing.

The main problem the divers faced was getting the boys through the flooded water back to the safety of dry land. They knew that if the boys panicked and created a struggle during the underwater rescue attempt, all of their lives would be put in danger.

This is when they decided to call on the help of Richard Harris, a renowned anesthetist. They asked him to sedate the boys as they felt this would be the best way to ensure the boys’ safety when being carried through the tunnels to the exit.

Harris was unsure about this idea as he believed it would be hard to monitor the effects of the anesthetic. If the boys were given too high a dose, there was the chance that their respiration systems could shut down. If they were given too little sedative, they could wake up, panic, and drown mid-transit.

Despite the risk, Harris, the expert cave divers, and the Navy SEALS, decided to carry out the plan regardless.

Was the rescue attempt a success?

After one boy was carried out safely, the divers knew that the lives of the others could also be saved. Their mission did not take place without incident, however, as one of the boys did wake up while being carried by a diver through the water. Thankfully, the diver was able to sedate him again before carrying him out to safety.

The rising flood water was another problem faced by the divers but as time was running out for the football team, they decided to carry on with their mission.

Thankfully, the rescue attempt was a success and everybody was rescued from the caves. Despite the brevity of this synopsis, it took 18 days to get the football team out alive.

Did everybody survive the cave disaster?

The boys and their football coach survived and were successfully reunited with their families.

But as we are reminded at the end of the film, the mission wasn’t without fatalities. One of the SEALS, Saman Gunan, died when he ran out of oxygen while trying to navigate the dangerous floodwater and another SEAL, Beirut Pakbara, later died from an infection he had contracted 17 months prior to the rescue mission.

Their loss is a sad one but they will be remembered for their brave attempts to save the thirteen lives during the Tham Luang rescue mission. They were heroes as were the thousands of other people who participated in the mission, including British cave divers John Volanthen and Rick Stanton who braved the floodwaters with the Navy SEALS and their fellow cave divers.


Read More: Thirteen Lives Movie Review

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24 thoughts on “‘Thirteen Lives’ Ending Explained: Did everybody survive the cave disaster?”

  1. Saman Gunan ran out of air, not oxygen. SCUBA divers don’t dive on oxygen. Pure oxygen becomes toxic 6 meters under water.

  2. Hey Vona, this one is worth a watch if you get the opportunity. It’s not as tragic as the story you mentioned.

  3. I usually love Ron Howard’s movies but I make it a rule never to watch movies based on real events in which people put themselves in life threatening situations. I read a news story once that took place in India (I think) in which a chicken fell into a well. 7 people attempted to rescue the chicken and they all drowned. The only survivor of the incident-The chicken.

  4. Truly amazing movie
    Heartbreaking and very emotional
    Everyone who played a part in real life are hero’s and a tired we’re amazing to.

  5. One of the rescue divers passed away but after checking online, it doesn’t appear that the coach died. If you see any different, please let us know.

  6. Did I see in the Netflix version the coach of the soccer team died this year? He was barely 30 years old. I read after the drama and celebration the rescue the coach was looked at as causing this situation because he knew he should not enter the cave during the rainy season.

  7. The real life divers that the film is about are absolute legends and no amount of awards and accolades bestowed on them would ever be enough . They were heaven sent .

  8. I agree with frank c. The British and Americans were the main part first time I saw this movie they had me at the edge of my seat and this rescue was so dangerous it’s unbelievable how the ones who survived made it out alive this was one of the dangerous missions I’ve ever saw wonderful movie

  9. Truly this was a real miracle…those people that saved the team were sent as ANGELS…may those that didn’t make it RIP…

  10. I’m not sure if the Thai people consider it to be accurate but whatever the case, everybody who took part in that rescue mission need to be hailed as heroes.

  11. Wonderful story did the Ties agree that the film was accurate due to the impression that the British and Americans were the main part.I know their seals were also instrumental in the rescue.

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