MAE SAI, Thailand — Thailand may have use for Elon Musk’s “kid-sized” submarine after all.
The tech billionaire had designed the miniature submarine, built with rocket parts, to help save the 12 boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand. On Tuesday, rescuers pulled off an improbable feat when they finished removing all 13 people from the Tham Luang Cave.
They saved the soccer team without the help of Mr. Musk’s submarine, which was built by engineers from his companies who traveled to the remote area of Thailand starting on Saturday.
The chief of the rescue mission had called the device “not practical” for the operation, which required squeezing through narrow passageways in the cave, but a Thai military official said the mini-submarine could be useful for future rescue missions.
Maj. Gen. Chalongchai Chaiyakham, the deputy commander to Thailand’s Third Army, said Wednesday that the mini-submarine would be appropriate for use in open water and that he had heard the technology would be given to the Thai Navy SEAL team.
In a tweet on Thursday, a translator based in Bangkok said engineers from SpaceX, Mr. Musk’s rocket company, trained members of the Thai Navy to use the mini-submarine.
Dozens of Navy SEALs were involved in the rescue effort, and last week, a former Thai Navy SEAL lost consciousness and died while placing air canisters on a route within the cave being used in the rescue effort.
A Boring Company spokesman said the SpaceX engineers met with members of the Thai Navy on Wednesday and that the last employees left Thailand on Thursday morning. Mr. Musk responded to the photos of the training session on Twitter, saying the engineers were also getting feedback from British divers on how the technology could be improved.
Mr. Musk sent 10 engineers from SpaceX; Tesla, his electric car company; and the Boring Company, which specializes in tunneling and construction.
As the Thai government celebrated the success of the mission and considered how they could use Mr. Musk’s quickly assembled invention, the 12 boys and their soccer coach were recovering under quarantine in a hospital in Chiang Rai, Thailand. All were improving quickly, the country’s top public health official had said.