Rescue team diver, a former Navy SEAL, dies from ‘lack of oxygen’ in flooded cave

A photo of former Thai navy Seal, Samarn Kunan, 38, released by the Thai government today. Samarn died from a “lack of oxygen” while placing oxygen tanks along a perilous route in the flooded cave.
A photo of former Thai navy Seal, Samarn Kunan, 38, released by the Thai government today. Samarn died from a “lack of oxygen” while placing oxygen tanks along a perilous route in the flooded cave.

A former Thai Navy SEAL who was part of the volunteer rescue crew attempting to extract a trapped soccer team from a flooded cave in Chiang Rai province has died from a “lack of oxygen.”

Samarn Kunan, 38, had been deep in the cave placing oxygen tanks at about 1am last night — part of preparations for a potential rescue mission — when he ran out of oxygen himself, according to a post on an official Thai government Facebook page.

The death of an experienced diver only serves to highlight just how difficult it may prove to get the 12 young boys — many of whom cannot swim — and their coach out along the same route.

“A former Seal who volunteered to help died last night about 2am,” Chiang Rai deputy governor Passakorn Boonyaluck confirmed to reporters at the site, calling it “sad news.”

In an on-site interview with local media, Major General Chalongchai Chaiyakam declared that the depleting oxygen levels inside the cave had become “more pressing than the impending rain” expected to start this weekend. He added that they now are certain of their current “unpreparedness to handle the extraction of the boys.”

In efforts to make sure “all parties are safe,” efforts to increase oxygen levels inside Luang Cave have amplified today. Chalongchai explained that air ducts are now being placed inside the cave — he aims to have installs 1,400 meters by the end of the day.

“We have to be more prepared than this before bringing the kids out,” he said in the same broadcast interview. There are four SEALs trapped inside with the kids right now. We will not wait for the water to lower since we are racing against time” though he did not specify extraction plans.

AFP contributed to this report.

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