Duangphet Phromthep, one of the 12 boys who were saved from a flooded Thai cave in 2018 after a weeks-long operation that garnered international attention, passed away in the UK, according to British and Thai officials.
Phromthep, a student at a soccer academy in Leicestershire, England, passed away on Sunday after being taken to the hospital, according to a statement from Leicestershire Police to the press.
The public relations department of the Thai government’s northern area said on Facebook that Phromthep, 17, had perished in an accident but gave no other information.
The statement from PR Thailand stated that “the mood at his home in the region of Chiang Rai was full of sorrow.”
A picture of Phromthep was posted on Facebook on Wednesday by Zico Foundation, a Thai non-profit that had given him a soccer scholarship to help him study in the UK. “Zico Foundation would like to express our sorrow for the pass of Dom Duangpet Phromthep, a scholarship student from Zico foundation,” the post read.
In the summer of 2018, the Wild Boars youth soccer team from the province of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand was rescued after spending more than two weeks stranded in a network of flooded caves. Phromthep served as the team’s captain.
When rising floodwater cut off the 12 boys and their instructor deep inside the cave, they got trapped, setting off a nearly three-week-long multinational rescue operation.
Divers participating in the rescue cited dangerous conditions, including shallow water rushing quickly through spaces that were quite constrained.
The lads were divided into groups of four for the challenging three-day final operation and outfitted with 5-millimeter-thick wetsuits, full face mask breathing apparatus, and air bottles.
Two divers carried their oxygen tanks and led each boy out of the water while guiding them through dimly lit passages. It took several hours to complete each rescue, most of which were spent submerged.
The first kilometer, where the divers and youngsters had to squeeze through a constricting, flooded channel, was the most hazardous.
Rescuers had to swim through flooded holes while holding the lads’ oxygen tanks in front of them. The lads were given over to separate, specialized rescue teams after finishing this section so they could help them through the remaining cave, much of which they could wade through.
Phromthep, also known as Dom, escaped the cave with the second batch of boys more than two weeks after they were initially trapped there. One of three boys whose birthdays passed while they were underground. He was one of the three. He pleaded with his parents not to forget in his first message to them. “I’m alright, but it’s really cold outside. But relax,” he said. Remember my birthday, he pleaded.
After being saved, he expressed his desire for pork and rice while thanking everyone for their assistance from the hospital.
The coach and all 12 of the saved boys were subsequently sent to a local hospital for treatment.
When they learned that their boys were alive, family members rejoiced and wept with relief, punching the air in relief.
One of the Thai cave survivors, Prajak Sutham, posted on Facebook in response to Phromthep’s passing: “We have been through a lot together, both good and horrible times. You told me to wait and see when you become a national player after we had both experienced life-or-death circumstances together. I’ve always thought you can pull it off. I jokingly told you when we last spoke before you departed for the UK that I would need your signature once you returned. We, the 13 of us, will always have each other, so rest in peace, brother.
Lead diver Rick Stanton from the 2018 rescue effort told the press that he was stunned by the information and that other rescuers had been informed.
“Dom took the lead and penned the initial messages to the outside world when John Volanthen and I first spotted the Wild Boars after a stressful nine-day hunt,” he stated in an email.
“As a personal remembrance, on the second day of the rescue attempt, it was Dom whose unconscious body I swam with as I escorted him to safety. I delicately clutched onto his priceless life while carrying the full weight of responsibility for his survival under the most trying conditions.
The Doi Wao temple in Phromthep’s hometown of Chiang Rai also sent its condolences to the mother of the deceased.
Phromthep studied at Brooke House College while enrolled in the Football Academy, and the school released a statement saying that his passing “has left our college community very heartbroken and devastated.”
Our college community has been grieved and affected by this occurrence. Ian Smith, the college’s principal, said, “We join in mourning with all of Dom’s family, friends, former teammates, and those involved in all aspects of his life, as well as everyone affected in any way by this loss in Thailand and throughout the college’s global family.
The statement reads, “Dedicating all resources to assist our student body, while they as young people process Dom’s passing.” Brooke House College is reportedly in contact with statutory authorities and the Royal Thai Embassy in London.