Saman Gunan died while laying oxygen tanks for a potential rescue of the trapped boys. (Facebook)
The world is celebrating the successful rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach who spent over two weeks in a flooded cave in Thailand.
But there was one casualty — a former Thai Navy SEAL who died after entering the cave to lay oxygen tanks along the exit route.
Saman Gunan (alternatively spelled Kunan) has been remembered by his family and people around the world as a hero.
The 38-year-old set out on Thursday night last week to deliver three oxygen tanks.
He completed his task, but lost consciousness on the return trip. His diving partner performed CPR but was unable to revive him.
Gunan was one of about 80 Thai Navy SEALs, who made up the bulk of the divers involved in the rescue effort.
“We won’t let the life lost be wasted,” SEAL commander Arpakorn Yookongkaew said.
‘I use pride to repress my sadness’
Waleeporn Gunan told the BBC, “It’s like I’ve died but I’m still alive.“
“But I use pride to repress my sadness,” she added.
She said her husband was being praised as a hero because of who he was.
“He loved helping others, doing charity work and getting things done,” she said.
She spoke about the strength of their relationship, saying they would tell each other they loved each other before he left for work each day.
“At midday, we’d text to see if the other had had lunch. In the evening, when he got home, I would ask him how he was,” she said.
Diver had previously spoken about death
“Saman once said we never knew when we would die. We can’t control that, so we need to cherish every day,” she said.
Ms Gunan had these final words for her husband:
“I want to tell you honey, you are the hero in my heart. You always were and you always will be.”
Meanwhile, Saman’s father Wichai Gunan told the BBC he was “very proud” of his son.
“But I am very sad too because I lost my beloved son,” he told the BBC.
“May you rest in peace. Rest well. Daddy loves you.”
Many are thinking of the fallen hero
James Massola tweet: “Congratulations kids, take care. I have to go.” RIP Sgt Saman Gunan – the “hero of Tham Luang cave”.
Annie Yu tweet: “While there is promising news from #Thailand cave rescue mission, I hope everyone takes pause to honor the former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Gunan. He volunteered to help the soccer team, and died underwater delivering oxygen canisters so the boys and their coach could breathe.”
Luke Ryan tweet: “This is Saman Kunan (alternatively spelled Gunan), who died in the effort to save the trapped kids in the cave. He was a Thai SEAL who came out of retirement to help out. Legit hero.”
Jake Tapper tweet: “And RIP Petty Officer Saman Gunan, the Thai navy diver who was killed delivering air tanks to the boys and their coach last week.”
Chris Wakare tweet: “#ThaiCaveRescue Time to show our kids the real #heroes – Late Saman Gunan, Thai Navy Seal Divers, British Cave Divers John Volanthen , Rick Stanton, Robert Herper, Australian Dr Richar Harris, Thai Rice Farmers. Time to ignore media savy politicians, movie stars, sportsperson”
Lachie Young tweet: “Amazing news! All 12 and coach out of the cave. The divers and medicos have been incredible. There is so much positivity in this story. But we should never forget that Saman Kunan lost his life trying to help save these boys. He is a hero. #ThaiCaveRescue”
Adam Best tweet: “The world needs a hero right now and Saman Gunan was one. The former Thai Navy SEAL volunteered to help the soccer team stuck in a cave. He died underwater delivering oxygen canisters so the boys could breathe. The Thai Navy wants to posthumously promote him. #ThaiCaveRescue”