- A Navy SEAL working with an international rescue team to save a soccer team stuck in a cave in Thailand has died, local authorities said.
- The diver, identified as Saman Kunan, died from lack of oxygen at 1 a.m. on Friday.
- Thai SEALs have praised Kunan for volunteering to help the rescue efforts and said they will continue and “won’t let our colleagues die for nothing.”
A former Thai Navy SEAL died early Friday while placing oxygen tanks in the cave where a Thai soccer team has been stuck for nearly two weeks.
The volunteer diver, who has been identified as 38-year-old Saman Kunan, died from a lack of oxygen early around 1 a.m. on Friday morning.
“His job was to deliver oxygen. He did not have enough on his way back,” Chiang Rai Deputy Governor Passakorn Boonyaluck told reporters. “It was sad news.”
The former SEAL had been delivering oxygen along the cave in which 12 soccer players and their coach are located. On his return he lost consciousness, was found by his buddy and received first aid but subsequently died.
Oxygen levels in the cave in Chiang Rai have dropped during the rescue effort, which rescuers have become concerned about.
Each diver reportedly needs to carry three heavy oxygen tanks to the boys’ cave but the path is treacherous, winding, and long, taking skilled divers around five hours each way.
Despite the death, divers will continue to provide the soccer players with oxygen and the plan is still for the boys to swim out of the cave with divers.
“We have to try everything,” a spokesman quoted by The Guardian said when asked about the rescue plan for the boys.
More than 100 Thai Navy SEALS are working on the rescue mission as well as divers from Australia, the US, UK, China, and other countries.
Kunan’s body has been sent to Bangkok and Thailand’s king has announced the former SEAL will receive a royally-sponsored funeral.
Thai SEAL commander Arpakorn Yookongkaew has said the tragedy won’t stop the rescue mission.
“We will soldier on,” he said. “We won’t let our colleagues die for nothing.”
Thai Navy SEALS released a statement on Facebook on Friday praising their former colleague. When the rescue mission for the soccer team was announced a number of former SEALS in a group chat sent around the message “See you in Chiang Rai,” according to a translation of the post by The Guardian.
Saman Kunan… was a skilled and talented Seal and a triathlon athlete. He loved adventurous sport. Even after he departed the Seal unit, he still kept in touch and maintained a tie with the rest of his former colleagues. He always participated in the Seal activities until the last step of his life. Saman left us while working as a diver and in a time where all divers joining forces to complete the mission.
His effort and determination will always remain the hearts of all divers.
May you rest in peace and we will accomplish this mission as you had wished.
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