The story of the boys soccer team trapped in a cave in Thailand, thankfully, had a happy ending. Unfortunately, there was one casualty during the two week long crisis — a Navy SEAL died while trying to rescue the children. The team’s dramatic survival and rescue story captivated the world and while rescuers did eventually get the 13 people out, one hero in the cause didn’t make it.
Saman Gunan was a former Thai Navy SEAL who worked as an airport security guard. He kept in touch with other fellow SEALs and their training activities and when he heard of the team of boys and their coach trapped in the cave, he didn’t hesitate to offer his expertise and help.
Gunan recorded a video before he left to assist, saying he wanted to “bring the boys back home.” In total, more than 1,000 workers and volunteers helped with the team’s rescue from the Tham Luang Nang Non caves in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
Gunan was an expert diver, who worked to bring much-needed supplies, including oxygen containers, to the boys and their rescuers.
Sadly, Gunan died by drowning while delivering the canisters to the cave. The rescuers attempted to revive him, but were unsuccessful.
The Thai Navy SEALs paid tribute to Gunan in a Facebook post, writing: “His effort and determination will always remain the hearts of all divers. May you rest in peace and we will accomplish this mission as you had wished.”
The divers and rescue team were finally able to free the trapped boys and their coach earlier this week.
Gunan’s wife, Waleepon Gunan, told the BBC in an interview: “In other people’s eyes, he’s lovely. For me, I love him so much. I really loved him. Every day before he left for work, we said we loved each other.”
A military funeral and a smaller service in his hometown honored Gunan, with the Thai monarchy offering to pay the bill for both ceremonies.
Waleepon is working through the pain of losing her husband, but explained, “Saman once said we never knew when we would die. We can’t control that, so we need to cherish every day.”
Thai military sources told ABC News that the Navy SEALs who were clearing the flooded cave barely made it out “after the main pump that had been siphoning water out of the cave failed.” The team and military personnel and civilians had to evacuate the cave, leaving hundreds of air tanks behind.
Among the many comments left on the Thai Navy SEALs Facebook post about Gunan were those who shared their respects, with notes such as: “Deepest condoleances to your familly and friends… RIP Hero.”
Another commenter shared: “Saman, you gave your life trying to rescue 13 people. Your selfless actions are felt throughout the world. Even tho you weren’t here in body we all know you were in spirit and you still helped them all. To your family, be very proud. Love and Respect from Australia.”
Others, such as this commenter, believed: ‘They need to name that mountain after him, or have a memorial statue of him.”