News: Thai Rescue Update

Saman Kunan

Tragic news came from Thailand today of the death of retired Thai Navy Seal Saman Kunan who ran out of air on a dive to stage further air cylinders into the cave. He became unconscious on the return journey from “chamber 3.”

Attempts by his companions to revive him, were unsuccessful. His body was taken aboard a C-120 plane to Bangkok and he has received a royal-sponsored funeral. Kunan, despite being retired from the Navy, volunteered to assist in the rescue. His death underlines just how difficult and dangerous this task is.

News on the progress of the operation came most recently early this evening in a press conference held by the governor, Narongsak Osottanakorn. Efforts to find alternative routes to the trapped boys from above, either by exploration or by attempting to bore a shaft have so far been unsuccessful and, in the words of the governor: “The boys entered through the front of the cave, they will come out through the front.” How this will be achieved remains unclear. Reports say that the water level within the cave has been lowered substantially such that some of the flooded sections now have airspace in them, but some still remain sumped and others have metres deep water. The boys are being taught to dive, believed to be by using full-face masks which are significantly easier to use than standard demand valves, and it appears they will be wearing this kit even if airspace is achieved throughout the route out.

When a rescue attempt will be made also remains unclear. Time is not on their side as the monsoon rains are set to arrive within hours and there are also reports that the oxygen level in their sanctuary has fallen to as low as 15%. Saman Kunan died ferrying in air to relieve this problem.

The attempt is unlikely to be made overnight, as the rescuers want to be as sure as they can be with their preparations, with the condition of the boys and their coach and with the amount of training that they have received. However, the governor has said that if the rain arrives in earnest a recovery may need to be made sooner.