Thai rescue diver dies from infection contracted while saving soccer team from flooded cave
By KATIE METTLER | The Washington Post | Published: December 28, 2019
A year and a half after a Thai youth soccer team was rescued from a flooded cave during a harrowing and dangerous mission, one of the divers who helped save lives has died from an infection he contracted during the operation.
Petty Officer 1st Class Beirut Pakbara was receiving treatment for the infection, but his condition worsened when it spread to his bloodstream, according to a Facebook post from the Royal Thai Navy. He died this week and was buried on Dec. 27 at the Talosai mosque in Satun's Langu district, reported the Bangkok Post.
A Royal Thai Navy spokesman told the Bangkok Post that Beirut will be posthumously promoted to the rank of lieutenant.
Beirut is the second diver to lose his life as a result of the cave rescue. Saman Kunam, a retired Thai navy diver, died during the mission in July 2018 while staging oxygen tanks along the 2.5-mile-long route to the 12 boys and their coach. The Wild Boars soccer team had become trapped deep in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave during an adventurous outing that went horribly wrong when heavy rainfall filled the flood-prone passages with murky water.
It took more than two weeks for dozens of rescuers from around the world to retrieve the soccer team from the cave, which consisted of swimming each member out one by one. In preparation, Saman and other divers had placed a series of oxygen tanks throughout the cave. During the mission, Saman's own oxygen depleted; his diving partner had to swim his body out.
The rescue team was prepared for more deaths during the mission, including that some of the children would not make it out of the cave alive, but all 12 boys and their coach survived. The dramatic, successful operation was recounted in a documentary and motion picture.