How local efforts helped develop plan considered in Thai rescue efforts

HOUSTON – One of the rescue plans that was being considered to free the trapped Thailand boys and their soccer coach originated in Houston.

It started with a phone call to Charles Foster, Houston's Honorary Consul General of the Kingdom of Thailand.

As rescue crews tried to figure out how to get the soccer team out of a dangerous cave, a local CEO of a major pipeline company gave the Foster a call.

"I had a degree of skepticism but, as I listened to him, it made a lot of sense," Foster said.

Looking at the narrow passageways in the cave and knowing most of the boys could not swim, Steve Catha, the CEO of SuperPipe, told Foster his idea.

"He could put in this very flexible big-inch piping in 40-foot segments," Foster said. "They would open the end that would be plugged and be able to literally zip the boys through that piping."

The idea was to pull the kids through the 2.5-mile trek through piping on a device with coasters.

"They'd be lying prone," Foster said. "If you go to Galveston, to Schlitterbahn, there are these tubes that you can lay prone and be zipped right through but there they pour water so you're going down hills."

The idea went all the way to the rescue command center in Thailand.

"I was busy answering questions and finding a solution," said Foster.

Then the news that the children were being rescued by experienced divers. The children donned diving gear themselves and were given anti-anxiety medication to make it through the treacherous trek.

"It would allow them to be calmer and if faced with any triggers that might be anxiety provoking, help them get through that more calmly," said Brent Kaziny, the lead physician of Emergency Management at Texas Children's Hospital.

All 12 boys and their coach have now been rescued more than two weeks after they lost their way in a cave.

The children and their coach are now all in isolation and being checked out in a Thailand hospital.

Here is one email exchange between the Consul General and Thailand officials:

Dear Thani,

I want to pass on the recommendation below from an industry leader who has installed flexible piping over the years in extreme environments.

This solution makes sense to me and I trust it is being vetted.

Warmest regards,

Charles C. Foster, Honorary Consul General of the Kingdom of Thailand.

Editor's note: The headline of this article has been updated to clarify the role of the plan that originated in Houston.