Diver dies as rescue bid turns tough

Mae Sai: A former Thai military diver helping to rescue a young football team trapped inside a flooded cave drowned on Friday as officials warned the window of opportunity to free the youngsters is “limited”.
The diver’s death raises serious doubts over the safety of attempting to bring the 12 boys and their football coach out through cramped passageways deep inside the waterlogged Tham Luang cave.
But Thailand’s Navy SEAL commander indicated that rescuers may have little choice but to attempt the tricky extraction of the group in comments on Friday, in the first official admission that they cannot wait out the monsoon underground.
“At first, we thought the children could stay for a long time… but now things have changed, we have a limited time,” Apakorn Yookongkaew told reporters.
A sombre mood has clouded the elation from earlier in the week, when the boys were found dishevelled and hungry but alive on a ledge kilometres inside the cave.
The diver, identified as Saman Kunont, passed out and died while returning from the chamber where the boys are trapped. He was part of a team trying to establish an oxygen line to the chamber where the children are awaiting rescue.
Many of the boys — aged between 11 and 16 — are unable to swim and none has diving experience. Chiang Rai deputy governor Passakorn Boonyaluck delivered the “sad news” of the diver’s death to reporters massed at the entrance to the cave “It’s very risky (diving out). Think about it, a Navy Seal just passed away last night, so how about a 12-year-old kid,” said Rafael Aroush, an Israeli volunteer helping the rescue bid.
The accident marks the first major setback for the gargantuan effort, which started almost two weeks ago after the “Wild Boars” team went into the cave in northern Thailand following football practice. — AFP