A diver trying to rescue 12 boys and their football coach trapped in a Thailand cave has died after running out of oxygen.
Saman Kunont was working as a volunteer and died during an overnight mission in which he was placing oxygen canisters, officials said.
The former Thai Navy Seal was returning from a spot inside the Tham Luang cave when his supplies ran short, according to authorities.
His death highlights the perils of the operation to extract the young boys and their coach from deep inside the waterlogged cave, raising questions about the feasibility of bringing youngsters out the same way.
“On his way back he lost consciousness,” Thai Seal commander Apakorn Yookongkaew said, adding that a friend had tried to help bring him out.
“But even though we have lost one man, we still have faith to carry out our work.”
Thai authorities are racing to pump out water from the flooded cave where the boys and their 25-year-old coach have been trapped since 23 June.
Rescuers have managed to reduce water levels in the cave by around 40% but monsoon rains are expected on Saturday.
The boys, aged 11 to 16, and their coach were found deep inside the Tham Luang xave system on Monday, nine days after they went missing following a football game.
Parts of the passageway leading to where the group were found are still flooded all the way to the ceiling – leaving diving out of the cave the only option for survival.
The Thai Navy Seals are in charge of extraction plans, with the help of dive teams from Britain, America, Australia and Asia.