Sources in the rescue operation, including divers who took part, told the BBC that the boys were heavily sedated ahead of the rescue to prevent them panicking in the dark, narrow, underwater passageways.
They were then strapped to one of two rescue divers tasked with shepherding each boy through the underwater parts of the system, and bundled into stretchers to be carried through the dry parts.
There were conflicting reports in the hours after the rescue about the extent to which the boys had been medicated before they were brought out. The Thai prime minister on Tuesday denied reports that they had been sedated, saying the boys were given only light anti-anxiety medication commonly provided to soldiers.
But several sources have since confirmed that the boys were only partially conscious as they were brought out.
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