A former Thai navy diver has died while taking part in efforts to rescue 12 boys and their football coach trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand. Petty Officer Saman Gunan lost consciousness on his way out of the Tham Luang cave complex, where he had been delivering air tanks, according to the BBC.
“His job was to deliver oxygen. He did not have enough on his way back,” the Chiang Rai deputy governor said.
PO Saman was brought out by his dive partner but could not be revived. The oxygen level in the chamber where the boys have taken refuge has fallen to 15%, officials said at a news conference. The usual level is about 21%.
The boys and their coach ventured into the cave while it was dry, but were trapped by a sudden deluge of rainfall. Ten days later British rescue divers found them perched on a rock shelf about 4km (2.5 miles) from the cave mouth.
PO Saman, 38, had left the navy but returned to aid in the rescue operation. Said to be an avid runner and cyclist, he was part of the massive rescue operation launched after the group became stranded in the Tham Luang cave.
“Inside the cave is tough,” said Thai Seal commander Rear Adm Arpakorn Yookongkaew. “On the way back from setting up oxygen bottles, Petty Officer First Class Saman Gunan passed out. His buddy tried to give him first aid, but he did not respond. We brought him to chamber three and gave him another round of first aid, but he remained unconscious.”
PO Gunan’s death underscored the danger involved in bringing the boys out of the cave. When asked how the group could make it out safely if an experienced diver could not, Rear Adm Arpakorn said they would take more precautions with the children, who are aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach.
Officials said his funeral would be sponsored by the Thai king.