In a heartbreaking turn of events, a former Thai Navy SEAL reportedly died while delivering oxygen to help the soccer team that is trapped in a complex cave system, according to News.
The man, retired Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Saman Kunan, was one of the volunteers who chose to work tirelessly to help the trapped soccer team. Chiang rai deputy governor Passakorn Boonyaluck said that “his job was to deliver oxygen (in the cave). He did not have enough on his way back.” The Washington Post added that Kunam was placing oxygen tanks on a planned exit route for the team, but during his mission, he ran out of his own oxygen and lost consciousness. Kunan was 800 meters from where the soccer team is now trapped.
For any rescuer to reach the boys, a diver is required to bring along three oxygen tanks. These need to be replaced again on the way out. The round-trip takes an experienced diver six to seven hours.
Officials say that they are still forging ahead with the rescue plan in spite of Kunan’s death. However, it has underscored the potential dangers of such a rescue plan, especially since some of the boys reportedly do not know how to swim.
And after being trapped for so long, three of the boys are reportedly in “poor health,” while others are suffering from exhaustion and malnutrition. These raise more fears about what could happen if the boys and coach attempt to escape the complex cave system.
Meanwhile, the current dry weather will soon end as heavy rain is forecast for Friday. The next 48 hours then becomes even more vital, as it represents a short window in which the boys could potentially escape the cave. The escape plan, which requires the boys to learn how to swim and scuba dive, will not be easy. The boys will need to remain calm through pitch-black water, narrow cave pathways, all while being led by trained frogmen.
The urgency to get the boys out of the cave is driven by rising water levels, decreasing oxygen levels, and ever-strained mental and physical wellness of the trapped team.
At the same time, placing the boys in pitch-black water is extremely dangerous. If anyone panics, it could lead to deaths of not just those being rescued, but of the rescuers as well.
A certified cave diver also warned of potential disaster.
“The greatest enemy to a diver is panic. Students who are accustomed to the normal mishaps of swimming, like accidentally getting water in the mouth or eyes, will usually have no trouble, but for people with little swimming experience, such a minor event can lead to irrational panic.”
People on social media are expressing their condolences, while calling Kunan a true hero.