Just days ago, we were jubilant that the young Thai footballers lost in an underground cave complex for days, had been located, and rescue plans were launched. However, today, the mood was sombre in the cave after an ex Thai navy diver has died while delivering air tanks to the Tham Luang cave complex.
Petty Officer Saman Gunan who was part of the dive team looking to rescue the boy, ran out of air while under water and lost consciousness. He had been placing oxygen tanks along the escape route, when the tragedy happened. His dive partner tried to revive the 38-year-old but failed, and his body was brought out of the cave.
Longtime friends were shocked to hear that the ex Thai navy diver has died. Gunan was an experienced diver, a triathlete and extremely fit. With Gunan’s death hanging in the air, it finally hit the team just how dangerous this operation has become.
Image credit: BBC screengrab
Oxygen Levels Underground Begin to Drop
Rescuers need to evacuate the 12 boys and their coach quickly as oxygen levels underground begin to drop.
Thai Navy SEAL chief Rear Adm. Aphakorn Yoo-kongkaew said oxygen levels in the cave had dropped to 15%. According to a Thai medic, oxygen at this level can cause serious risk of hypoxia to those underground. This is the same condition that causes altitude sickness.
Despite initial plans to have the boys wait out the monsoons and for water to subside, it is starting to get too dangerous to leave the boys in the cave for much longer. Despite the high risks, rescuers might not have any choice left but to teach the boys how to dive.
Dangerous and Extremely Risky
Seeing how Gunan was an experienced diver and how the ex Thai navy diver has died, rescuers are worried about training these boys who are physically and possibly mentally weak. We’re talking about doing a crash course on cave diving with children aged 11-16 years old.
A round trip would require a minimum total number of 11 hours of diving altogether. The dive to the cave with the boys would take an experienced diver five hours of swimming through jagged and tight channels following the current.
Swimming back the same way would add an extra hour, making it six hours because this time, they will be swimming against currents. We’re talking about trying to mobilise 12 boys and a coach who have never dived before. Some of them don’t even know how to swim.
Even After Ex Thai Navy Diver Has Died, There Was More Bad News
The military has been working around the clock pumping water out of the cave. And explorers haven’t stopped searching in the hills for undiscovered entrances to the cave system.
But so far no entrances have been found and heavy monsoon rains are expected on Sunday, threatening further flooding. Oxygen underground is also getting depleted slowly from the sheer number of people involved in the rescue.
Despite how the ex Thai navy diver has died, every single person on the rescue team is pushing on.
“Everyone is a professional so we’re trying to put it away and avoid it happening again,” said Finnish volunteer diver Mikko Paasi, a long-term resident of Thailand.
Suddenly rescue efforts are being doubled and tripled with everyone doing everything that they can in preparation for Sunday. Every second is precious because at any time a sudden gush of water from high up in the hills above could flood the chamber completely.
Let’s continue to keep hoping and praying for the best.
Lead and Feature image credit: BBC, CNN