Rabat - Saman Kunan, a former Navy SEAL diver, died yesterday as he attempted to rescue a group of 12 Thai boys trapped in a cave with their 25-year-old football coach.
Rabat – Saman Kunan, a former Navy SEAL diver, died yesterday as he attempted to rescue a group of 12 Thai boys trapped in a cave with their 25-year-old football coach.
The 38-year-old former Navy SEAL was part of the rescue team that had been battling a race against the clock and worsening environmental conditions, working day in and day out to find an exit from the cave where twelve boys and their coach have been trapped for twelve days.
Kunan was given tributes from around the world. The diver’s body is set to “receive a royal-sponsored funeral in coming days,” according to the Guardian.
Kunan has been hailed a “national hero” with Thai authorities and SEAL members applauding his bravery.
Kuman volunteered to supply the trapped boys with oxygen by diving deep inside the cave to place air tanks along the cave. On his way back, however, he fell short of air supply and became unconscious.
“His job was to deliver oxygen. He did not have enough on his way back,” said Chiang Rai region Deputy Governor Northern Thailand region where the rescue mission took place.
“He always participated in SEAL activities until the last step of his life. Saman left us while working as a diver and in a time where all divers are joining forces to complete the mission. His efforts and determination will always remain in the heart of all divers. May you rest in a peace and we will accomplish this mission as you had wished,” read a statement by Thai navy SEALs.
Offering condolences to the deceased’s family, the Thai armed forces wrote: “Cave diving is one of the most difficult jobs in the world.”
Emotional footage has emerged of Kunan’s involvement with the rescue, showing an optimistic and driven man embarking on a risky task with composure and an unfailing sense of responsibility. The footage reinforced the tributes paid to Kunan.
In the video, Kunan said, “I am at Suvarnabhuni airport waiting to board the plane to join the mission in Chiang Rai… See you this evening. We will bring the kids home.”
Clinging to hope
When the trapped boys were discovered on July 2 by a team of British divers, the news was widely celebrated both in Thailand and around the world, with people sending prayers and good wishes. They expected a successful rescue mission in the following hours.
“More than 130 million liters of water has been pumped from the cave this week,” the Guardian reported earlier today, hinting at the enormous efforts that rescue teams have invested in saving the boys.
Bill Whitehouse, a veteran British diver, told the Associated Press that Kuman’s death is “awful news.” Whitehouse added that the tragedy “illustrates the dangers in the operation that is being undertaken, it isn’t a walk in the park… It is a very unforgiving environment.”
While the joy of the boys’ discovery has been dampened by Kuman’s death and the dire environmental conditions around the cave, rescuers from Thailand and several other countries are still working day and night to find an exit for the trapped boys.
Apakorn Yookongkaew, one of the commanding officers of the rescue mission, said: “Even if we lost one of our men, we cannot lose hope in the mission. We will rescue the boys.”
Yookongkaew further noted that environmental conditions in the cave are expected to worsen in coming days. “We can’t wait. There is no time,” one of the divers said.