The Thailand cave rescue mission turned deadly when a former member of Thailand’s Navy SEAL unit died from a lack of oxygen while attempting to reach 12 boys and their soccer coach.
Samarn Poonan, 38, a former member of Thailand’s elite Navy SEAL team, died after entering Tham Luang Nang Non cave to rescue the 12 boys and their soccer coach who have all been trapped inside the Chaing Rai, Thailand, cave since June 23.
Poonan died while trying to place oxygen tanks along a potential exit route inside the cave, according to the SEAL commander.
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"Once he placed the oxygen tanks he became unconscious on his way back. His buddy tried to administer first aid, when there was no response he tried to move him," Admiral Apakorn Yuukongkaew, commander of the SEALS unit told reporters on Friday.
"We won’t let his life be in vain. We will carry on," he added.
The Thailand cave rescue mission is proving to be far more difficult than anticipated due to the twists and turns inside the cave. The threat of flood waters from heavy rains are preventing rescuers from reaching the 12 trapped boys, ranging in ages from 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old soccer coach. Ben Reymenants, a Belgian diver who is helping with the Thailand cave rescue mission, said that heavy rains, zero visibility and flooding have made the rescue mission extremely difficult during an interview with Sky News.
"This is one of the more extreme cave dives that I have done," Reymenants said during the interview. "It is very far, and very complex. There is current. The visibility can be zero at times. So getting boys through there one by one, and the risk that they will panic is there. They can’t even swim."
Raymenants notes that the flow of flood water caused by the rain makes it extremely difficult to swim against. And since many of the boys are unable to swim, the cave rescue mission is even more complex.
Thailand cave rescue: How did the Thai soccer team get trapped?
The Thai soccer team went missing on June 23 after soccer practice. The team decided to visit the Tham Luang Nang Non cave — also known as the Great Cave of the Sleeping Lady — but were trapped inside by rising floodwaters. According to the New York Times, the cave is a popular place to visit, but there is a sign outside that warns people not to go inside the cave during the heavy rain season.
According to the Associated Press, the 25-year-old coach apologized for leading the 12 young boys into the cave in a letter he and the soccer team sent through divers. To the parents of all the kids, right now the kids are all fine, the crew are taking good care. I promise I will care for the kids as best as possible. I want to say thanks for all the support and I want to apologize to the parents," he wrote.
Inside the Thailand cave rescue
The Thailand Navy SEAL team posted a video to Facebook showing the boys and their coaching appearing to be in good condition. But as the threat of heavy rains continues and flood waters rise, the Thailand cave rescue mission becomes more complicated and dangerous for rescuers and the young boys and their coach trapped inside the cave.
In an effort to keep the boys and their coach safe, Thailand military officials have been pumping water from the cave to keep the floodwaters from rising. Rescuers are sending scuba equipment inside the cave and are trying to teach the boys how to swim and use the equipment so they can successfully lead the boys and their coach out of the cave underwater.