July 10 (UPI) — Thai navy SEALS barely escaped after clearing a flooded cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach were rescued, the Thai military said Tuesday.
The main pump that had been siphoning millions of gallons of rain water out of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave failed just as rescuers extracted the soccer coach and the four navy Seals, Thai military sources told ABC News.
The Thai military said the pumps lasted just long enough to successfully rescue the final four boys and their soccer coach as the third chamber began to fill with water, followed by the first and second, while crews scrambled to make their way out of the cave safely.
Military personnel and civilians quickly abandoned the cave and left behind hundreds of air tanks, some of which belonged to the SEALs and others which were donated by King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun.
“This morning, I promised to take nine people out. We’re a success now,” the chief of the rescue operation Narongsak Osottanakorn said during a news conference. “We have done something that no one expected that we could complete. It was an impossible mission.”
Narongsak also expressed his appreciation for the support provided by the king and global observers who followed the story.
“I would like to say thank you to His Majesty and royal family to support us,” he said. “I am thankful for all support from Thai people and all around the world.”
Saman Gunan, a 38-year-old former navy SEAL who volunteered as a diver for the rescue mission, lost consciousness and died as he returned from putting air tanks in place.
His wife, Waleeporn Gunan told the BBC they had discussed the dangerous nature of his work and made efforts to value their time together.
“Saman once said we never knew when we would die,” she said. “We can’t control that so we need to cherish each day.”
Waleeporn Gunan added she is both deeply saddened by her husband’s death and immensely proud of his actions.
“If you ask me if I’m sad, it’s like I have died but am still alive, but I use my pride to repress my sadness,” she said. “He loved helping others, doing charity work and getting things done.”
As of Tuesday, all 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach were rescued from the cave where they’d been trapped for more than two weeks.