Saman Kunan, a former Thai navy Seal, who died putting air tanks around the Tham Luang caves in Thailand.
Our Foreign Staff
6 JULY 2018 • 8:32 AM
A former Thai navy diver died working to save 12 boys and their football coach trapped inside a flooded cave, highlighting the risks for rescue teams trying to find a safe way to bring the group out after 13 days underground.
Dwindling oxygen levels in the cave complex and weather forecasts predicting more heavy rain added to the pressure on authorities to work out a rescue plan.
Samarn Poonan, 38, a former member of Thailand’s elite navy SEAL unit, died on Thursday night as he worked underwater in the cave complex, laying oxygen tanks along a potential exit route, the SEAL commander said.
“We won’t let his life be in vain. We will carry on,” Admiral Arpakorn Yuukongkaew told reporters on Friday.
Samarn was working with a partner placing oxygen tanks in a section of the cave, the official said. As they returned, Samarn fell unconscious about 1.5 kms from the cave entrance.
Thailand’s Navy SEAL commander indicated that rescuers may have little choice but to attempt the tricky extraction of the group , in the first official admission that they cannot wait out the monsoon underground.
“At first, we thought the children could stay for a long time… but now things have changed, we have a limited time,” Apakorn Yookongkaew told reporters.
A sombre mood has clouded the elation from earlier in the week, when the boys were found dishevelled and hungry but alive on a ledge inside the cave.
He was part of a team trying to establish an oxygen line to the chamber where the children are awaiting rescue.
Many of the boys – aged between 11 to 16 – are unable to swim and none has diving experience.
Cave rescuers ‘still have faith’ in bid to save group
Chiang Rai deputy governor Passakorn Boonyaluck delivered the “sad news” of the diver’s death to reporters massed at the entrance to the cave complex.
“On his way back he lost consciousness,” Navy Seal commander Apakorn Yookongkaew said, adding he died despite the desperate efforts of his to help bring him out.
“We lost one man, but we still have faith to carry out our work.”