Reports have come in overnight that a former Thai Navy diver has died at the Tham Luang Nang Non cave.
Saman Gunan, 38 had been working as a security officer at Suvarnabhumi airport before he volunteered to take part in rescue efforts in northern Thailand.
Reports in the mainstream media indicate that Kunan died around 01.00 local time whilst sherpering cylinders into the cave system.
Thai Seal commander Rear Adm Arpakorn Yookongkaew stated "inside the cave is tough. On the way back from setting up cylinders, Petty Officer First Class Saman Gunan passed out. His buddy tried to give him first aid, but he did not respond. We brought him to chamber three and gave him another round of first aid, but he remained unconscious."
Kunan's body has now been repatriated with full military honours. Members of the armed forces stood in salute as his body was flown back to his hometown in Roi Et province.
All the British cave rescuers are full of admiration for the work being done by the Thai divers. British Cave Rescue Council
A spokesman at the British Cave Rescue Council stated "We are saddened to learn that a Thai diver has paid with his life. We wish to convey the sympathy of all in the British Cave Rescue Council and its member rescue teams to the Thai commander and the diver’s companions and family."
This fatality demonstrates in stark terms, the dangers associated with the cave environment. British Cave Rescue Council
These specialist military personnel are trained to deal with special and unconventional warfare, reconnaissance missions and underwater demolition. The training is tough and conducted in harsh environments. There will however be very little, if any training conducted in dry and wet caves because this is not an environment a Seal will tend to encounter in their career.
Cave exploration and diving
Cave exploration and diving is also highly specialist and it too requires specific training, equipment and discipline. This fatality has demonstrated in stark terms, the dangers associated with the cave environment, especially those characterised by long sections of passage with deep water or those entirely filled with water (sumped). It also underlines the difficulties of the operation to rescue those trapped underground.
Myths and Misinformation
As shown in the above report from the BBC, the mainstream media are consistently talking and writing about "oxygen tanks" when we know in the main, scuba diving cylinders contain compressed air.
The above report is pretty well put together. The one error in this video is that it illustrates the water flowing in the wrong direction, into the cave from the exit.
There is however a lot of misinformation being reported via various channels including social media. A good example of this is a video showing a diver squeezing through a small space in a cave wearing a sidemount configuration. This claims to be filmed in Tham Luang Nang Non cave. It was not.
Within the scuba community there are a lot of keyboard divers all commenting on equipment configuration and cave training saying "I would not do this" in quite strong language. All the personnel involved with this rescue are having to make very difficult decisions and make the very best use of the resources - people, equipment and knowledge - they have to hand. The Thai authorities are being supported by some world class experts.
It is clear that there are brave people involved with this rescue that are not as equipped and trained as they ought to be for this environment, but this is an extreme situation.
It is perfectly acceptable to ask questions to learn from this kind of situation, and constructive debate is also healthy. However second guessing every single action is not helpful. We are not there, on the ground.
How can you help?
Charitable rescue organisations such as the British Cave Rescue Council are generally not that well funded. If you feel that you wish to make a practical difference, please consider donating to this charity. The money will be used to support future cave rescues, ie purchase valuable equipment such as the Heyphones.