A statue to honour a former Navy SEAL diver who died during the rescue of the boys trapped in a Thailand cave last summer has been unveiled outside the cave network where the rescue occurred.
The memorial to Saman Gunan, 38, was paraded through the streets of Chiang Rai on Thursday before being installed at Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park at a memorial pavilion that had been set up earlier this year.
Gunan, also known as Ja Sam, died on July 6 during the rescue mission as he was laying oxygen tanks along a possible exit route in the cave and ran out of air.
He had volunteered to help in the rescue operation after leaving the Navy and had been assigned to deliver oxygen. According to SEAL commander Arpakorn Yookongkaew, he passed out while underwater and couldn’t be resuscitated.
His death raised concerns during the rescue mission about having several boys and the soccer coach dive through a network of cave tunnels to escape.
The training the team received from the Thai Navy did appear to be enough as close to three weeks after becoming trapped — which occurred when they entered the cave and it flooded with them still inside — the boys escaped the cave.
A few days after the rescue concluded, a funeral was held for Gunan with hundreds of members of the public turning out, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
New kids dental benefit now open to some Canadians. Here’s what to know
Country singer Jake Flint, 37, dies just hours after his wedding
Members of the boys soccer team, the Wild Boars, also paid respect to Gunan with photos released by the Thai Public Health Ministry on July 14 showing the young men bowing their heads in prayer while they were still in hospital with a drawing of the diver on the table in front of them.
WATCH: Globalnews.ca coverage of the rescue of the Wild Boars soccer team in Thailand
Gunan’s statue shows him in his diving equipment with what appears to be a smile on his face and his goggles around his neck. He is draped in garlands with flowers around him and 13 boars below him, in reference to the soccer team and coach.
Several people gathered for the parade to honour the diver, bowing their heads and praying for him.
Chalermchai Kositpipat, the artist who made the statue, told the Chiang Rai Times that there was not going to be any specific ceremony held to install the statue as the cave is “currently undergoing renovation.” He also said one of two paintings depicting the rescue operation had been put in place in the pavilion outside the cave, but still needs four to five days to add finishing touches to the whole memorial.
Kositpipat told The Thaiger he wanted to thank all those who made it possible for the project to come together, which is not only for Gunan but all those who helped in the rescue effort.
The memorial pavilion is not yet open for viewing, but the statue can still be seen from outside.