Thai navy Seals pay tribute to diver who died in cave rescue

Saman Kunan’s colleagues recall his skill and dedication as his body is taken to Bangkok

Tributes have been paid to Saman Kunan, a former navy Seal diver who died in the attempted rescue of a group of Thai boys trapped in a cave.

His body has been taken aboard a C-120 plane to Bangkok and he will receive a royal-sponsored funeral in the coming days.

The former Seal died at about 1am on Friday when he ran out of oxygen on his way back to the surface after placing air tanks along the two-mile route to the boys, the current method for refreshing the air supply in the cave.

He became unconscious while making the return journey from “chamber three”, about a mile inside the cave. A diving buddy tried to revive him but was unsuccessful.

“His job was to deliver oxygen. He did not have enough on his way back,” the Chiang Rai deputy governor said.

Kunan, who had volunteered for the rescue and was reportedly 38, was a keen runner and was photographed after competing in a triathlon.

A video has emerged of him waiting to board a plane to join the rescue mission in Chiang Rai. “I am at Suvarnabhumi airport waiting to board the plane to join the mission in Chiang Rai.

“I’m accompanied by doctors from the navy and divers from SeaWorld that also donated lots of diving equipment. See you this evening. We will bring the kids home.”

The Thai armed forces website offered condolences to Kunan’s family and wrote: “Cave diving is one of the most difficult jobs in the world.”

The Thai navy Seals paid tribute to Kunan, saying he “left the unit to work at the Suvarnabhumi airport in 2006. He was a skilled and talented Seal and a triathlon athlete. He loved adventurous sport. Even after he departed the Seal unit, he still kept in touch and maintained a tie with the rest of his former colleagues.

“He always participated in the Seal activities until the last step of his life. Saman left us while working as a diver and in a time where all divers [are] joining forces to complete the mission.

“His effort and determination will always remain in the hearts of all divers. May you rest in peace and we will accomplish this mission as you had wished.”


Mattha Busby

The GuardianTramp

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