Thai cave rescue: What happened and how did a Navy SEAL diver die?

Thai cave rescue: What happened and how did a Navy SEAL diver die?

THE 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue captured the world’s attention as divers sought to save 12 young boys and their football coach.

Divers from around the world joined Thailand‘s elite navy SEAL unit for the dangerous mission after the group became stuck in a flooded cave system.

In June 2018 12 children and their football coach were rescued from a network of caves after being trapped for daysLILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images)

What was the plan to save the trapped boys?

On June 23, 2018, 12 boys – aged from 11 to 16 – and their football coach went missing.

The missing team was finally discovered stranded in a flooded cave nearly three miles from its entrance after a nine-day search operation.

The mission to rescue them began on July 8 and four boys were brought to safety that first day.

Divers were forced to trawl through dark, narrow passageways – some of which are no more than two feet (0.6 metre) wide.

Part of the rescue plan saw the missing boys being taught how to dive and tethered to a professional diver as they made their way back through the cave system.

Their journey back to the cave’s entrance was estimated to be as long as five hours.

Were all the boys rescued?

It was confirmed on July 10, 2018, that all 12 boys and their coach had been rescued after 17 days trapped in the flooded cave.

People in northern Thailand were photographed celebrating in the streets after the miracle escape.

Eight boys were saved on the first two days of the dangerous escape bid with the help of expert divers.

A ninth child was then saved on the morning of July 10 and minutes later a tenth person was seen being stretchered away.

Witnesses then confirmed that an 11th person had been carried from the site before reports confirmed that the last boy and the football coach had been successfully rescued.

Did a diver die rescuing them?

Former elite Navy SEAL Saman Kunan tragically died after suffocating while trying to save  the 12 trapped boys from the Tham Luang Nang Non caves.

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

Hero Kunan, who was 38 when he died, was returning 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.

Thai Navy SEALs released a statement in tribute to Kunan after his death calling him a “skilled and talented Seal and a triathlon athlete”.

The statement read: “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 joined forces to complete the mission. His effort and determination will always remain in the hearts of all divers.”

How can I watch The Rescue documentary?

The Rescue is a Disney+ documentary that was released in 2021.

According to the streaming site, the programme is an “against-all-odds story of the daring rescue of twelve boys and their coach from deep inside a flooded cave in Thailand” that “shines a light on the high-risk world of cave diving, the astounding courage and compassion of the rescuers, and the shared humanity of the international community that united to save the boys.”

The documentary has a run time of one hour and 47 minutes and was directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin.

The Rescue aired on BBC Two on February 25, 2024.

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