Who was Navy SEAL rescue diver Saman Kunan? Hero who died while trying to save the Thai cave boys

The experienced diver lost consciousness as he made his way back to safety after delivering essential supplies to the group.

Who was Saman Kunan and how did he die?

Saman Kunan was a former Thai Navy SEAL aged 38.

He died from a lack of oxygen as he attempted to return to safety after making vital deliveries to the trapped young footballers and their coach on Thursday, July 5, 2018.

He was working on the rescue mission as a volunteer when tragedy struck.

It is believed Kunan was attempting to reach a cavern set up as a command centre around 1.2 miles inside the flooded cave system when he ran out of oxygen at around 2am local time.

Kunan was returning to the centre after placing oxygen tanks through the cave's underground network as plans were put into place to rescue the trapped group.

His diving partner rapidly began efforts to revive him, but he was pronounced dead a short while later.

What respects did Thailand pay to the hero?

Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn announced that Saman Kunan would receive a full royally-sponsored funeral.

The deceased diver’s body was repatriated at the Mae Fah Luang international airport in Thailand's Chiang Rai province.

It was then flown to his hometown in Roi Et for the funeral.

Have any tributes been paid?

On the morning of July 6, devastated Thai navy Seals paid tribute to their former colleague, describing him as a “skilled and talented Seal and a triathlon athlete”.

Their statement added: “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 joining forces to complete the mission. His effort and determination will always remain the hearts of all divers.

“May you rest in peace and we will accomplish this mission as you had wished.”

Have the divers been recognised for their bravery?

On October 29, the rescue divers who risked their lives to save the young boys were honoured at the Pride of Britain awards in London.

The group were presented with an Outstanding Bravery Award after they took food and supplies through the caves to the boys before bringing every child out to safety.

British diver John Volanthen said the award was “unexpected” and stressed that many other people were involved in the rescue.

“We are the tip of a very large iceberg,” he said. “We’re the visible part but we are supported by the British Cave Rescue Council and everyone underneath.

“It wasn’t just us, we were part of an international team. We played our part but it was bigger than us.”

When were the boys rescued from the cave?

The group of 12 boys and their 25-year-old football coach were discovered on Monday, July 2, 2018, as they huddled on a ledge in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave.

The youngsters, aged between 11 and 16, were trapped in the cave by flood waters shortly after entering on June 23.

A successful three-day mission to swim them out using divers resulted in their miracle rescue.


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