Death of ex-SEAL cave diver touches Thais riveted by rescue

BANGKOK — The death of a former member of the Thai navy’s elite SEAL during an underwater swim in the partly flooded cave where a dozen boys and their soccer coach are trapped struck a particularly deep chord with Thais, because he was a volunteer on a humanitarian mission that has riveted the nation for two weeks.

And as is the case with elite military units all over the world, Thailand’s SEALs were quick to pay their own heartfelt tribute to their fallen friend, former Petty Officer 1st Class Saman Gunan.

“See you in Chiang Rai,” was the can-do salutation in a memorial message from other retired SEALs that was forwarded to their buddies in active service at the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in northern Thailand on Friday.

“The determination and dedication of Saman will always be in all of our frogmen hearts. Today Saman rests. We will complete this mission, just as Saman intended,” they vowed, signing off with a battle cheer adopted from the U.S. Navy: “Hooyah Hooyah Hooyah.”

The statement said that Saman was a member of their 30th class who resigned to work as a security officer at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport since 2006.

“He is a SEAL member who had knowledge, skill, was an athletic triathlon, and enjoyed adventure sports,” it said. “Even when he left the department, he still loved and bonded with his SEAL team brothers, no matter what activity the SEAL team held, Saman would always participate in activities, right until his last minute.”

“Saman left us while working with his SEAL team brothers at a time where all frogmen put their arms around each other and move forward to complete the mission that is set.”

SEAL commander Rear Adm. Arpakorn Yookongkaew separately explained the ethic driving their mission and why Saman’s death would not deter them from their course.

“We have been trained to always be dealing with risks,” he said. “Therefore, whether it’s sickness or death, they are things that we are always facing because that’s how we’re trained. I want to confirm that we have never lost morale, and are still in high spirits. We will not let our fallen brother die in vain.”

Arpakorn told reporters Saman’s role was to place oxygen canisters on the route within the cave the active SEALs are using to reach the trapped boys.

“When Saman placed the canisters he was on his way back and while he was returning he had lost consciousness. His buddy partner tried to give him first aid but when those efforts did not succeed he was brought back to chamber three,” referring to part of the cave that has become a staging area for the operation.

“And when he reached chamber three, we tried to care for him some more but he lost consciousness and never regained it so we sent him to the hospital,” said Arpakorn.

Saman was 38 and is survived by his wife, his colleagues said.

He also left behind a selfie video taken on June 30, just before boarding the navy plane that took him north for his final mission.

“Loaded all my stuff on to the plane. I’m ready to fly to Chiang Rai,” he says, while also noting who else was on the flight.

“See you at Tham Luang in Chiang Rai,” says Saman. “May good luck be on our side to bring the boys back home.”

Grant Peck, The Associated Press

Just Posted

128 Flags of Remembrance now flying in Sylvan Lake until Nov. 12

Centennial Park boasts 128 Canadian flags to honour 128,000 Canadians killed and missing in action.

Fall Food Drive set for Saturday in Red Deer

Organized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Red Deer is counting down to CFR 45

Jointly hosted by Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce and Westerner Park

Mirror fire department still short volunteers

Fire department will close if volunteers can’t be found

Emazing Bike tour hits Red Deer

Cross-Canada electric bike tour to break world record

Live bear cam: Let the fishing begin

Watch bears in Alaska’s Katmai National Park catch their dinner live.

Flyers new mascot ‘Gritty’ a bearded, googly-eyed terror

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Flyers unveiled their new mascot Monday, and as… Continue reading

Tiger Woods winning adds to Ryder Cup buzz

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — Already the most intense competition in golf, the Ryder… Continue reading

Ex-Sabres captain Brian Gionta retires after 16 NHL seasons

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Brian Gionta has retired after 16 NHL seasons, two… Continue reading

Curling season kicks off after massive shake-up of multiple men’s teams

With so many top Canadian men’s curling teams opening this season with… Continue reading

Canada has removed six out of 900 asylum seekers already facing U.S. deportation

OTTAWA — Newly released figures show Canadian officials have removed only a… Continue reading

Texas prisons often deny dentures to inmates with no teeth

HOUSTON — Inmates without teeth in Texas are routinely denied dentures because… Continue reading

Sex assault charge stayed against one British sailor, trial proceeds for other

HALIFAX — The Crown has stayed a sexual assault charge against a… Continue reading

Most Read