An ex-Thai Navy SEAL diver died Friday morning as he took up efforts to help rescue a group of boys and their soccer coach trapped in a cave in the Tham Luang Nang Non complex.
The ex-Navy SEAL was identified as 38-year-old Saman Kunan and he died while placing oxygen tanks in the cave, The Guardian reported.
Coverage of the Thai cave rescue operation on Globalnews.ca:
He was laying the tanks along a possible exit route when he ran out of oxygen.
Kunan had volunteered to help in the rescue operation after he left the Navy, said Chiang Rai deputy governor Passakorn Boonyaluck, as quoted by BBC News.
“His job was to deliver oxygen. He did not have enough on his way back,” Boonyaluck said.
SEAL commander Arpakorn Yookongkaew said the diver passed out while he was underwater and he couldn’t be resuscitated.
“Despite this, we will continue until we accomplish our mission,” he said.
WATCH: Thai navy carries supplies into cave as rescue options mulled
There’s concern now about how the boys and their coach will be able to escape the cave.
Teaching them to dive was one option that had been discussed before.
“A Navy SEAL just passed away last night. How about a 12-year-old boy that will have to pass through?” said Israeli volunteer and Thailand resident Rafael Aroush.
The cave has narrow passages that have been flooded; there’s one long point where the boys would have to dive on their own. Some of the boys aren’t expert swimmers, either.
The Thai Navy is teaching them diving basics.
But diving out is just one option being considered.
People at the scene are also looking into letting them stay in the cave until waters recede, or even drilling a shaft so they can leave. Personnel are also pumping water out of the cave.
There are also concerns about oxygen levels.
WATCH: How a soccer team and their coach became trapped inside a mountain
Chiang Rai governor Naronsak Osotthanakor said the number of rescue workers has depleted oxygen there, and that personnel are trying to install a long cable to supply the boys and their coach with air, reported The Guardian.
They’ve dropped to 15 per cent; normal levels are closer to 21 per cent.
Kunan is to have a royally-sponsored funeral, Thai king Maha Vajiralongkorn announced.
- With files from Reuters and The Associated Press