A Thai navy SEAL who aided with the rescue of a youth football team trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand last year has died from an infection he contracted during the dramatic recovery mission.
Petty Officer Beirut Pakbara fell ill with a blood infection while working to retrieve the 12 young boys and their coach, the Thai Navy said in a statement posted on its Facebook page late on Friday.
After the 18-day ordeal came to an end last July – with the entire team emerging safely from Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand – Beirut was under close supervision by doctors during his year-long illness.
“But his condition worsened and he died from the blood infection,” said the Navy, expressing “profound sadness” to his family.
An official in Beirut’s home province of Satun told AFP news agency the Navy SEAL was immediately buried on Friday.
Another rescuer, former Thai Navy SEAL diver Saman Gunan, died during the rescue mission when he ran out of oxygen while attempting to establish an air line to the children and their coach.
A statue of the heroic diver was erected near the cave’s entrance, attracting more than 1.3 million tourists since the team was extracted from their watery jail.
Wild Boars Academy’s coach Ekapol Chanthawong and 12 boys had gone to explore the Tham Luang caves in Chiang Rai province on June 23, 2018, when a rainy-season downpour flooded the cave system and trapped them underground.