How dangerous is a Navy Seal underwater

Ex-soldier of the Thai Navy Seals dies in the cave while attempting to rescue him

The man tried to place oxygen canisters in the cave where teenagers are locked. He passed out on the way back.

A diver was killed while attempting to rescue the young people trapped in a Thai cave. The former member of the Thai special unit Navy Seals died due to lack of oxygen in the cave, the authorities said on Friday. Accordingly, the man had tried to place oxygen containers in the cave and lost consciousness on the way back. It is the first fatal incident in the unsaved efforts to rescue the youth footballers and their coach in the northern province of Chiang Rai.

The teenagers between the ages of 11 and 16 and their trainer have been stuck in the cave since June 23, after a mass of water cut them off their way back. The team had visited the cave after a training session, was probably surprised by a flash flood - and had escaped from the masses of water deeper and deeper inside.

Multiple rescue scenarios

Shortly before British rescue divers discovered the group late Monday evening (local time) more than three kilometers from the cave entrance, the water in the cave near the Myanmar border had risen again. Rainfalls make the rescue work more difficult, in the region at the 20th parallel north the rainy season is between June and October.

There are several scenarios for rescuing those trapped. Either the children should dive out of the flooded part of the cave accompanied by rescue divers. But the misfortune of the deceased rescue diver showed how dangerous the company can be. "Diving is always full of risks," said Navy Seal chief Admiral Aphakorn Yoonkongkaew. "He might have passed out," which is why he might have drowned, "but we'll have to wait for the autopsy results," he added.

As a second rescue option, it is discussed to drill an opening in the ceiling of the cave in order to lift out the trapped. Authorities and rescue workers prefer the first variant.

Limited time window

The young footballers are prepared - as best they can - with diving lessons. The main training is to put on diving masks and to breathe underwater. The media also discussed the possibility of using pumps to dry out the cave enough for the boys to walk out of it. In view of the water masses, this solution currently seems unlikely.

In any case, the rescue should take place quickly: The time window for the rescue is "limited," said the commander of the Thai military unit Navy Seal, Apakorn Yookongkaew, to journalists on Friday. He officially admitted that the youngsters cannot wait for the monsoon season to end.

Oxygen line is laid

Rescuers meanwhile wanted to feed oxygen into the cave. "Our main task today is to put a pipe in the chamber so that the group can breathe more air," said an army general who was involved in the rescue operation, Chalongchai Chaiyakam, on Friday. The oxygen content in the chamber is currently around 15 percent. Normally, the oxygen content in the air is around 20 percent.

How long the trapped can stay in the cave without additional oxygen, the army general left open. Nor did he say how long it should take to set up the line. The oxygen line must be 4.7 kilometers long to reach from the cave entrance to the chamber.

(APA / dpa)