A Thai navy diver working as part of the effort to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave died Friday from lack of oxygen, underscoring risks of extracting the team.
Thai officials had been suggesting in public statements that a quick underwater evacuation of the boys and their soccer coach was needed because of the possibility that access to the cave could soon close again due to seasonal monsoon rains expected this weekend. "We won't let our colleagues die for nothing".
Meanwhile the Federation Internationale de Football Association president, Gianni Infantino, said the boys and their coach would be invited to attend the World Cup final in Russia should they be rescued in time and be healthy enough to travel. REUTERS/Stinger THAILAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN THAILAND.
Saman Kunan, 38, was assisting the operation as a volunteer but died when he ran out of air while diving in the caves at about 7 a.m. local time on Friday (7 p.m. ET on Thursday).
They can not dive out at this time - the problem is the children's readiness to dive, " said Narongsak Osottanakorn, the commander of the rescue mission.
Navigating through the cave system to where the football team is holed up takes experienced divers more than five hours in the flooded conditions.
But Navy Seal commander Apakorn vowed the rescue bid will continue.
"There will be rain and many things could go wrong". I want to confirm that we have never lost morale, and are still in high spirits.
In a "message of support and solace", FIFA's president Gianni Infantino invited the boys to travel to Moscow, saying the organisation had been "anxiously following the news of the rescue operation".
A firefighter who has been working on draining the water said that levels in parts of a passage leading to a chamber where the boys and the coach were found was still flooded all the way to the ceiling, making diving the only way out.
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Cave rescue experts have said the safest option for the group may be to remain where they are until the water recedes.
The rescue effort has grown into an global collaboration, with divers from the US military, the U.K., China and Australia helping out.
There is also mounting concern for the mental and physical health of the boys, who have spent prolonged time in the "dark, claustrophobic cave complex".
Relatives of the trapped boys await their rescue at the base camp near Tham Luang cave. They went missing after they set out to explore the cave on June 23.
Tech billionaire Elon Musk is sending specialist engineers to Thailand to help aid the rescue of the 12 boys and their football coach trapped in a cave. Picture taken July 4, 2018.
"According to the plan, if we let them dive out, the most risky point is extremely narrow, the boys will have to dive by themselves, the water is quite deep and long at that point and the [Thai Navy] SEALs can't be next to them".
The team became trapped kilometres deep inside the cave system two weeks ago after floodwaters caused by heavy rains blocked the entrance.
But getting them out won't be easy.
The boys are also being taught swimming and basic scuba inside the cave.