A former Thai Navy SEAL died early Friday while placing oxygen tanks in the cave where a Thai soccer team has been stuck for nearly two weeks.
The volunteer diver, who has been identified as 38-year-old Saman Kunan, died from a lack of oxygen early around 1 a.m. on Friday morning.
“His job was to deliver oxygen. He did not have enough on his way back,” Chiang Rai Deputy Governor Passakorn Boonyaluck told reporters. “It was sad news.”
The former SEAL had been delivering oxygen to the cave where 12 soccer players and their coach are located. He then lost consciousness and received first aid but subsequently died.
Oxygen levels in the cave have dropped during the rescue effort, which rescuers have become concerned about.
Each diver reportedly needs to carry three heavy oxygen tanks to the boys’ cave but the path is treacherous, winding, and long, taking skilled divers around five hours each way.
Despite the death, divers will continue to provide the soccer players with oxygen and the plan is still for the boys to swim out of the cave with divers.
“We have to try everything,” a spokesman quoted by The Guardian said when asked about the rescue plan for the boys.
More than 100 Thai Navy SEALS are working on the rescue mission as well as divers from Australia, the US, UK, China, and other countries.
Kunan’s body has been sent to Bangkok and Thailand’s king has announced the former SEAL will receive a royally-sponsored funeral.
Thai SEAL commander Arpakorn Yookongkaew has said the tragedy won’t stop the rescue mission.
“We will soldier on,” he said. “We won’t let our colleagues die for nothing.”