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Thailand cave rescue has attention of metro divers, child psychologists

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Those trapped teens in Thailand have people watching here in the Kansas City metro.

They're breaking all new ground. That's what a police dive team based in Overland Park said, as dive rescue specialists in law enforcement look overseas, saying the mission to save the 12 Thai soccer players and their coach from a flooded underwater cave would alarm even experienced dive rescue specialists.

Diving into murky, dangerous water is part of the profession for Overland Park Police Sergeants Tom Smith and Roger Pesek. These two divers, who have nearly 60 years experience between them, said the rescuers in Thailand will have to teach inexperienced divers to use scuba gear with only a few minutes notice, a process that usually takes months of training.

"As humans, we're not supposed to breathe underwater, so getting people to inhale underwater, at times, can be very difficult," Sgt. Pesek told FOX4 News.

Smith and Pesek said police dive teams are trained to work in rivers and lakes, but not caves. Sgt. Smith emphasized the danger in cave diving hits its peak when divers run out of air. In a lake, the diver has only to resurface, but in a cave, where quarters are much tighter, a rescue diver can become trapped with no escape. Smith and Pesek said divers are taught from the beginning to be safe enough to protect themselves.

"I can't imagine going into a cave that's two miles back and trying to stay in communication. That'd be something I can't even fathom," Sgt. Smith said.

As of Monday evening, four of the kids and their coach are still in that cave waiting to be rescued. However, being stuck in a dangerous place can have lasting effects. Susan Pinne, director of Trauma Smart at Crittenden Children's Center, has a background in child psychology, and in her trauma program, kids with various degrees of trauma come for care.

"It really only takes one caring adult to make a difference for a child who's experienced a trauma. So, remaining calm, yourself. Listening. Staying calm no matter what you hear from the child so they have the freedom and ability to express themselves," Pinne said on Monday.

Pinne and her comrades say children who've experience similar trauma show signs similar to those experienced in cases of post-traumatic stress disorder: nightmares, difficulty in school and loss of sleep and appetite, long after their trauma ends.