He left after a decade to care for his ailing grandmother and began coaching youth soccer at the Mae Sai Prasitsart school in Chiang Rai province, near the Burmese border.
Four of the boys' teammates and Thai dive experts were flown to the same hospital for treatment the day before. They were placed in isolation as a precaution, although he said the authorities may soon allow the parents to see the boys.
The second evacuation attempt started at 11 a.m. local time (midnight ET) after rescue workers got some rest and refilled supplies.
The urgent and risky effort has involved the boys diving through the cave's tight and twisting passages, guided by experienced divers. The distance from where the crew is trapped to the main entrance is about a half a mile, and the boys had to travel most of that distance underwater to reach freedom.
Interior Minister Anupong Paojina said the same divers who participated in Sunday's rescue conducted the operation Monday because they are familiar with the cave conditions.
Officials insisted that storms forecast for Chiang Rai province in Thailand's far north had been factored into their decision to go ahead with the complicated and risky plan for the boys aged between 11 and 16 to dive out of the cave.
A fifth boy was brought out earlier on Monday, a navy official said.
The hazardous bid to rescue the boys - aged between 11 and 16 - started unexpectedly on Sunday when the rescue team said conditions were flawless for the evacuation.
"This morning they said they were hungry and wanted to eat khao pad grapao", he said, referring to a Thai dish of meat fried with chili and basil and served over rice.
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All four were airlifted to a hospital in the nearby city of Chiang Rai. Relatives were able to see them through a glass partition, the governor said.
Thai military bring water pumps to the cave on July 6, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
So far, eight boys have been rescued from the Tham Luang cave network in northern Thailand. The rescued boys had to travel almost two and a half miles from inside the cave to reach the outside, a path that is partially submerged in fast-flowing freezing water and with peaks and crevices extremely hard to fit through. We've set a plan for four but if we want to rescue five, those responsible will have to adjust the plan.
Narongsak Osottanakorn said in a press conference on Monday night that it will be up to the divers to decide whether it is possible to save all five at once.
"In the cave we have more than 100 staff. for guide ropes, to fill tanks and 18 divers to get the kids", Narongsak said.
None of the rescued boys' identities have been revealed. "For safety, the best number is four, ' he said".
Thirteen worldwide divers and five Thai Navy SEALs are involved in the operation. It could take two to four days complete the mission, officials said. It is rainy season in Thailand at the moment, with torrential downpours that appear out of nowhere dominating the weather patterns. More worrying, however, oxygen levels in the chamber where the boys sought refuge were falling.