CHIANG RAI – The 12 boys and coach of the Wild Boars Soccer were shocked and saddened when told of the death of a former Navy SEAL during the rescue of them from Tham Luang Cave in Chiang Rai Province.
All of the footballers cried and thanked Lt-Commander Saman Kunan for sacrificing his life to save theirs, said Dr Jessada Chokdamrungsuk the permanent secretary for the health ministry.
“The boys have promised to be good persons to honour Lt-Commander Saman,” Jessada said, adding they wrote their condolences on a drawing of Saman and stood in silence.
Saman, then a former Petty Officer First class, collapsed and died on July 6 during the operation to help secure the 12 Mu Pa Academy football team members and their assistant football coach from the cave where they had been trapped since June 23.
Lt-Commander Saman Kunan was the only casualty in the operation.
He was posthumously promoted to Lieutenant-Commander by His Majesty the King on Saturday to honour his sacrifice.
Dr. Jessada said the doctors allowed the boys’ families to inform them about Saman’s death on Saturday after their physical and mental health had largely improved to a satisfactory level.
The last boys and the assistant coach were evacuated from the cave on July 10, capping off a daring three-day operation. They were placed under medical care, including health check-ups, at Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital.
They were found to be weak and suffering from exhaustion after 10 days inside the cave without food before being discovered.
Dr. Jessada said the boys were under the close watch of psychiatrists and psychologists when informed of the news about Saman.
Maj-General Dr Wutthichai Issara, a senior doctor of the third Army Region, told the boys on behalf of the military that their rescue effort had been an honour and a mission and brought with it prestige.
The permanent secretary revealed that the first four boys to be rescued and admitted to hospital on July 8 had returned to generally normal health and had no signs of flu or other contagious diseases. Two of them diagnosed with lung infections had improved under a week-long regime of antibiotics.
The general health of the second group of four admitted to hospital on July 9 was similar to the first group.
The last group of five footballers was also generally healthy and had no contagious diseases. Some who had ringing in their ears were improving.
Earlier reports revealed that the boys are scheduled to be discharged from the hospital on Thursday.
By Nattawat Laping