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Thai diver dies during cave rescue operation to save boys

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By Alasdair Sandford  with Reuters
Thai diver dies during cave rescue operation to save boys
Copyright  Instagram

A Thai rescuer has died during an operation to save 12 boys and their football coach who are stuck inside a flooded cave complex in the north of the country.

Saman Kunan was a former member of Thailand’s elite navy SEAL unit. As part of the rescue team in Chiang Rai, he died on Thursday night after entering the cave network. He's believed to have been 38 years old.

Thai military authorities said he had gone in to lay oxygen tanks along a potential exit route, and died as he tried to leave, during the five-hour journey back through underground tunnels.

Conditions in the cave are described as tough. “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 on,” said Admiral Apakorn Yuukongkaew, commander of the SEAL unit.

It’s the latest setback for a mission fraught with danger as rescue teams seek to save the boys. They are bracing themselves for more rain that could delay their work.

Volunteers at the Tham Luang cave were shaken by the diver’s death.

Chiang Rai’s governor said on Thursday that rescuers were preparing a five-kilometre “oxygen pipeline” as part of plans to bring the group out, but added that the boys and their coach would not be coming out soon.

Rescuers including international teams are looking at alternative ways to get them out before heavy rains hit the country’s north next week.

Saman Kunan (bottom left) with the diving team in Tham Luang Forest ParkInstagram