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Ex-Thai Navy SEAL official dies during rescue operation in cave

Military personnel gather as they prepare to go into the Tham Luang cave complex in Thailand to rescue the trapped boys. Photograph: (Reuters)

WION Web Team Thailand Jul 06, 2018, 08.40 AM (IST)

An ex-Navy SEAL official, Samarn Poonan, drowned while carrying out a rescue operation to free the 12 boys trapped in a cave in Thailand.

The man died during an overnight mission when he was placing oxygen canisters in Chiang Rai cave area.

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Poonan became unconscious after falling in the water in the cave complex, officials said.

"It was sad news, a former SEAL who volunteered to help died last night about 2am," Chiang Rai deputy governor Passakorn Boonyaluck said.

Boonyaluck said his job was to deliver oxygen in the cave and that he "did not have enough on his way back".

"On his way back he lost consciousness," said Thai SEAL commander Apakorn Yookongkaew, adding that a friend had tried to help bring him out.

"But even though we have lost one man, we still have faith to carry out our work,"  Yookongkaew declared.

The 12 boys belonging to a local football team including the coach have been trapped in the cave for 13 days after entering it to escape the rain a fortnight ago.

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Rescue operations are in full swing to save the boys with disaster relief officials and divers from UK, Australia, China and Russia helping out local authorities.

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