News In Pictures: Navy SEAL dies delivering supplies to boys trapped in Thai cave

A Thai navy diver working as part of the effort to rescue a dozen boys and their football coach trapped in a flooded cave has died from a lack of oxygen.

Saman Kunan, 38, just before he went on the dangerous mission.

Saman Kunan, a former Thai SEAL, was working in a volunteer capacity and died during an overnight mission in which he was placing oxygen canisters.

Thai SEAL commander Arpakorn Yookongkaew said while underwater, the rescuer passed out and efforts to resuscitate the 38-year-old failed.

‘Despite this, we will continue until we accomplish our mission,’ Mr Arpakorn said.

Mr Kunan was trying to reach a cavern set up as a command centre 1.2miles inside the cave system when he ran out of air at 2am local time.

He was returning to the centre after placing oxygen tanks through the cave’s underground network.

A diving partner tried to revive him but was unsuccessful.

A Thai Buddhist monk leads military honor guards carrying a flag-draped coffin containing the remain of Mr Kunan. (Picture: EPA)

His body has been sent to Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok and will be flown to his hometown in Roi Et for a royally-sponsored funeral, the Thai king announced.

Mr Kunan’s final Facebook post was a picture of him proudly posing with his comrades at the mouth of the Than Luang cave.

He had vowed to ‘bring the kids home’ as he took leave from his job as an airport security guard to join the rescue operation.

His death highlights the dangers of the rescue operation, especially the plan to try to teach the inexperienced youngsters how to dive.

The initial elation at finding them alive on Monday is now fading and being replaced with worry about whether they can survive the mission and swim through the narrow channels, with limited visibility.

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Diver Saman Kunan, 38, is pictured with his colleagues before his death

Bill Whitehouse, vice chairman of the British Cave Rescue Council (BCRC) said the death of Mr Kunan, was ‘awful news’.

‘It illustrates the dangers in the operation that is being undertaken, it isn’t a walk in the park,’ Mr Whitehouse said.

We don’t know the details of why it has happened, but things can happen. ‘It is a very unforgiving environment, if something goes wrong you can’t just pop up to the surface.’

Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from a flooded cave where the boys and their coach have been trapped since June 23, before more rains are forecast to hit the northern region.

Yesterday Chiang Rai provincial Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn said he asked the SEALs in charge of extraction plans to estimate what sort of a risk would be involved to bring out the boys and their coach even though they weren’t 100% ready for a risky dive.

The boys are thin nut in high spirit

Diving experts have warned they don’t think all the boys will survive the efforts to remove them because of the dangers and had advised waiting until October when they will be able to float or even walk out.

However, officials would prefer to get the boys out as soon as possible because heavy rain expected by Saturday almost surely will raise water levels again in the cave, making passage in some areas even more difficult, if not impossible.

They are hoping that an upgraded draining effort can lower the water in an area where it is still at or near the ceiling.

The idea is to get some headroom so the boys would not be reliant on scuba apparatus for a long stretch and could keep their heads above water. ‘We can no longer wait for all conditions (to be ready) because the circumstance is pressuring us,’ Mr Arpakorn said. ‘At first, we thought the children could stay for a long time… but now things have changed, we have a limited time,’ he added.

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The governor has said the 13 may not be extracted at the same time, depending on their condition. They’ve practised wearing diving masks and breathing, in preparation for the diving possibility.

The boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach went exploring in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in the northern province after a football game on June 23.

Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for nine days.

The boys, although skinny, have been described as in good health. Authorities have said the players are being looked after by Thai navy SEALs, including medics, staying with them inside the cave.

However the oxygen levels in the cave are reducing because of the number of people helping in the rescue effort. Alongside pumping out water, workers are also trying to lay a pipe to pump in clean air. Cave rescue experts have said it could be safest to simply supply the boys where they are, and wait for the flooding to subside.

That could take months, however, given that Thailand’s rainy season typically lasts through until October. There are also hopes they could be airlifted to safety if they can find an area where they can drill through the mountain down to them.
Source: Nigerian News