A convoy accompanied the army vehicle carrying the coffin of Petty Officer 1st class Saman Gunan from Fort Mengrai Maharaj Hospital in Phaya Meng Rai district of Chiang Rai to Mae Fah Luang airport in Muang district yesterday (July 6).
About 100 officials observed a 10-minute silence of respect for a man who died doing his duty as the coffin, draped with the national flag, was moved to a Royal Thai Navy plane and then flown to U-tapao airport in Satthahip district, Chon Buri.
He lost consciousness during a dive while returning rescuers' used air tanks to chamber 3 inside the cave in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai, around 1am on Friday. He did not recover.
He worked for Airports of Thailand (AoT) as a security officer at Suvarnabhumi airport and took time off work to help his Seal colleagues with the rescue mission on Thursday.
Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha offered condolences to his family, who were in shock after learning of their loss. The diver's father, Wichai Gunan, 60, was reported by Thai media to have collapsed in grief when told of his death.
Naval Special Warfare Command chief Rear Admial Apakorn Yukongkaew said on Friday the navy team would not be deterred by the loss and were determined to accomplish the rescue.
“It was sad news," the Seal chief said.
Army chief Gen Chalermchai Sitthisad commended the former soldier, even though he had retired from duty.
"He dedicated his life to the operation. He was a former soldier but he volunteered for this," the army chief said.
Navy spokesman R/Adm Chettha Chaipiem said the navy was considering asking His Majesty the King to promote Saman posthumously and was looking into what benefits his family could receive because he died helping the rescue operation, even though he had retired from the navy.
AoT president Nitinai Sirismatthakarn said the listed company will give at least B1 million to Saman’s family in recognition of his determination to help the 12 boys and their football coach. He was one of 28 former Seal members working at AoT who had decided to join the rescue operation, he added.
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