On Thursday night, Samarn Poonan, a former member of Thailand’s elite Navy SEAL unit and on the Chiang Rai rescue team, died after laying oxygen tanks along a possible escape route for the 12 boys and their soccer coach.

“The conditions in the cave are tough,” Admiral Apakorn Yuukongkaew, commander of the SEALS unit, told reporters on Friday. “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.”

Yuukongkaew added, “We won’t let his life be in vain. We will carry on.”

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Poonan was 38-years-old and was a professional diver. He was assigned to an overnight mission to deliver oxygen but didn’t have enough on his way back.

Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn announced on Thursday that a three-mile “oxygen pipeline” is being prepared for the next mission, but said the boys will not be extracted soon.

“You see we are increasing the number of people going inside the cave. So we have to fill it up with oxygen,” Narongsak told reporters. “We have considered many alternatives to find the most feasible ones.”

With predicted inclement weather conditions, diving will likely be the only way out for the soccer team that’s been stuck since June 23.

“A Navy SEAL just passed away last night. How about a 12-year-old boy that will have to pass through?” Rafael Aroush, a volunteer who arrived at the cave site on Thursday, told reporters. “There will be rain and many things could go wrong. I don’t want to say it, but it could be a catastrophe.”


International rescue teams are trying to concoct a plan to free the boys and their coach before heavy rains further obstruct the mission.

“What we worry most is the weather,” Osatanakorn told reporters. “We can’t risk having the flood back into the cave.”


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