'You are my very heart': Wife of diver who died in Thai cave mourns a hero

'You are my very heart': Wife of diver who died in Thai cave mourns a hero
PHOTO: Reuters

BANGKOK - The wife of a former Thai navy diver who died working to rescue a young football team trapped for days in a flooded cave said on Thursday she missed him dearly and urged the boys not to blame themselves for his death.

The rescued boys smiled and waved from their hospital beds in the first video clip released on Wednesday after an ordeal that has gripped the world.

Samarn Kunan, 38, a former member of the elite navy SEALs unit, was the only casualty in a multinational operation to save the boys and their coach after monsoon rains trapped them in the cave they were exploring in northern Thailand.

"I love you so much," his widow, Valeepoan Kunan, wrote in the caption to a black-and-white photograph of her husband she posted on her Instagram account.

"I miss you," she added. "I love you like you are my very heart...from now on when I wake up...who will I kiss?"

The world should remember Samarn, the head of the rescue mission told a news conference at the end of the 17-day operation.

"Samarn Kunan is the real hero," Narongsak Osottanakorn said. "On the day that he passed, the entire team was sad, but we used this sorrow. We saw that he gave his life for this cause."

A day earlier Valeepoan posted a picture of her hand clasping that of her husband.

People from around the world have offered condolences and commented on Valeepoan's social media accounts.

"Our hearts go out to you and your family at this difficult time," read one comment. "Your husband is so brave. The world will not forget his kindness and all he did to save those boys."

A Thai artist has promised to create a statue of Samarn to be erected in Chiang Rai province, where the Tham Luang cave is situated.

Samarn, an emergency rescue worker at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport after he left the SEALs in 2006, joined the cave rescue operation on July 1.

British divers found the 13 young men huddled on a muddy ledge in a partly flooded chamber inside the cave. Samarn died on July 6 after losing consciousness during a mission to place oxygen tanks deep inside the cave, just two days before the first group of four boys was brought out.

During the rescue, some Thais said on social media that the football team had been reckless in entering the cave during the rainy season. But Valeepoan absolved them of responsibility.

"I want to tell the boys, please don't blame yourselves," Valeepoan told reporters.

Thai cave rescue: Boys share details of their traumatic experience

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    During a national TV broadcast they smiled, joked and showed solidarity with one another, as they shared details of their traumatic experience inside the flooded Tham Luang cave complex.

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    During their TV news conference, the boys said when they entered the cave on June 23 they had planned to only be inside the cave for about an hour after football practice.

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    But a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping them.

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    The boys had no food and survived only on water. They took turns digging at the cave walls, hoping to find a way out.

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    "This experience made me stronger and taught me not to give up," said the team's youngest member, who goes by the name Titan.

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    The boys will eventually spend time as novice Buddhist monks to honour the dead diver's memory, their coach said on Wednesday.

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    The Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital on Saturday released a video clip on its Facebook page showing the 12 Mu Pa (Wild Boar) Academy footballers and their coach thanking everyone for their concern and help in rescuing them. Chanin Wibulrungruang (Titan), 11, said his condition was returning to normal and he would like to eat sushi. He thanked the Navy SEALs for rescuing him and thanked everyone for all the moral support.

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    They also conveyed that they were in good health and looked forward to tasting their favourite foods. The 12 youths and the coach were seen in a row of beds in the three-minute clip.

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    Pipat Phothi (Nik), 15, said he felt in good health. He said he would like to eat rice with crisp fried pork, and rice with stew red pork. He thanked the rescuers and everyone for the moral support.

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    Piraphat Sompiangchai (Night), 16, said he felt in good health and he would like to eat pork pan chabu very much. He thanked everyone for all the moral support.

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    Adul Sam-on (Dul), 14, said his condition had improved and he would like to go to a KFC shop. He said he was now killing time by drawing pictures of his friends and Coach Ek in the cave.

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    He also said in English: “I’m Adul. I’m very fine. Thank you for helping us. Thank you very much.”

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    Ekkapol Chanthawong, 25, or Coach Ek, said he his condition was improving and he now felt strong. He would like to eat fried rice with crisp pork. He said he would like to thank all the people and all the ministries and Navy SEALs as well as the doctors for helping the team.

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    Pornchai Khamluang (Tee), 16, said he would like to eat fried rice with crisp pork and would like to thank everyone for all the moral support.

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    Sompong Jaiwong (Pong), 13, said he was strong now. He would like to eat curry basil rice with fried egg. He thanked everyone for all the moral support and thanked the international community for helping the team. “Thank you,” he said in English.

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    Mongkol Boonpiam (Mark), 13, said he was now strong and could even run. He would like to eat a piece of steak. He thanked everyone for all the moral support and promised to fight on

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    This handout video grab taken from footage released by The Thai government public relations department (PRD) and Government spokesman bureau on July 11, 2018 shows members of the "Wild Boars" football team being treated at a hospital in Chiang Rai.

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    The 12 boys rescued from a Thai cave were passed "sleeping" on stretchers through the treacherous passageways, a former Thai Navy SEAL told AFP on July 11, giving the first clear details of an astonishing rescue mission that has captivated the world.

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    Doctors have said they are in good physical and mental health -- a view backed up by the footage made available by the Thai government showing them behind quarantine glass in bed wearing smocks and facemasks, flashing peace signs and doing the traditional "wai" greeting.

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    They do not look shell-shocked or stunned despite a potentially harrowing 18 days inside a dank, dark cave followed by a risky rescue operation that was dubbed "Mission Impossible".

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    A screen grab shows people looking through glass at the boys

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