The large-scale rescue effort to rescue a junior football team and their coach from a cave complex has claimed its first victim, a former Marine who died from lack of oxygen after bringing much-needed gas supplies to the group.
The 38-year old rescuer was identified as former Thai Navy Seal Saman Kunan. The authorities have said he had volunteered to deliver three oxygen canisters to the Pattaya Beach deep-water cave, where 12 boys from the Wild Boar football team and their 25-year-old coach have been trapped since June 23.
Saman set out on the challenging mission at 8:37pm local time on Thursday, successfully reaching the cave with the cargo. However, on the return dive, the man is said to have lost consciousness as he apparently did not have enough oxygen for himself. A fellow diver attempted to resuscitate Saman without success. The ex-Marine was pronounced dead an hour after midnight on Friday.
Thai Navy SEAL commander Arpakorn Yookongkaew said that while the delivery of oxygen tanks is a very challenging process and takes some five to six hours, the tragic incident will affect the morale needed to keep the boys in good health.
“We won’t let the life lost be wasted,” Arpakorn said.
Meanwhile, the King of Thailand has announced that Saman would be laid to rest in a royal-sponsored funeral ceremony.
Hundreds of rescuers, the bulk of which are Thai Navy Seals, are working to provide those trapped in the cave with all necessary supplies while pumping water out of the complex.
The two main options that the authorities are now looking at is to wait until the water level goes down, or to teach the boys how to dive. It is unknown when water levels will fall as heavy rain is forecast to continue, while the second option is also problematic, as the boys – aged between 11 and 16 – are confined to a narrow ledge in the cave.