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Navy SEAL diver rescuing Thai boys trapped in cave dies from lack of oxygen

A former Navy Seal working to rescue a dozen boys and their coach trapped in a cave in Thailand has died from a lack of oxygen, authorities have said.

Samarn Poonan, a former member of Thailand's elite navy SEAL unit who was part of the rescue team in Chiang Rai, died on Thursday

SEAL commander Arpakorn Yookongkaew told a news conference that the victim fell unconscious during part of an operation to lay oxygen tanks along a potential exit route.

Authorities are racing to pump out water from a flooded cave where a dozen boys and their football coach have been trapped since June 23.

The tragic news came as the youngsters faced the agonising decision to leave their pals behind as they swim for their lives to safety.

Chiang Rai provincial governor Narongsak Osatanakor, who is heading rescue efforts , says the boys may be removed in stages, saying "all 13 may not come out at the same time."

Footage shows how the 12 boys and their 25-year-old team coach are in good spirits despite their harrowing ordeal that has left them trapped underground for 11 days.

The boys, aged 11 to 16, are seen laughing and joking with Thai Navy SEAL divers in a minute-long clip released to the public on Tuesday.

Wrapped in foil blankets, the schoolboys appear gaunt and underweight as their faces are illuminated by the divers' flashlight.

Nearly 125 million litres of water have been pumped from the cave in a bid to keep the boys safe.

Rick Stanton and John Volanthen were the first divers to reach the boys who disappeared in Luang Nang Non Cave, in Chiang Rai province, on June 23.

Two elite British cave divers have revealed they are willing to once again navigate the challenging 2.5 mile journey to the boys, which three hours each way.

Mr Stanton, a fireman in his fifties from Coventry, and Mr Volanthen, an IT consultant in his forties based in Bristol, have broken diving world records together and both received medals for a complex 10-day rescue attempt in France in 2010.

But rescuers are now grappling with the challenge of safely extracting the group through nearly a mile of tunnels, large portions of which are underwater, with heavy rainfall forecast.

Mr Grass said he thinks the British divers would be happier diving with another "four or five Brits who they know, who they've shared danger and experiences with", rather than people they do not know.

"We have other divers that are ready to go out, and with other equipment," he said, adding: "There are various things that we have in the UK that are fairly unique to caving in as much as we have a radio system that will work underground."

Somboon Sompiangjai, 38, said his son Peerapat, 16, was able to swim, adding that he was confident the SEALS' experience and professionalism would let them get the boys home safely.

He told Reuters: "I am not worried if the kids have to swim and dive. I felt much better after seeing the clips with the children in good spirits, even though they were in there for 10 days."

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