Thai cave boys mourn death of Navy Seal as British divers reveal authorities were out of their depth

The 12 boys rescued from a Thai cave were moved to tears as they paid tribute to the former Navy Seal who died ahead of their dramatic rescue.

The "Wild Boars" football team, who are recovering in hospital following 18 days spent inside the Tham Luang cave, wrote messages of thanks on a picture of Saman Kunan after they were told of the diver’s death for the first time since they emerged from their ordeal.

Images of the children in their hospital gowns with their heads bowed low were released on Sunday as British divers involved in the international rescue mission claimed the Thai Navy were “out of their depth” before their crucial intervention.

Doctors at the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital where the boys, aged 11 to 16, are being treated said on Sunday that they were in good health and are expected to be discharged on Thursday.

The health ministry said the overall condition for the players and coach was "normal", though many are still on a course of antibiotics after spending nine days in the damp and dark trapped underground.

Images of the children in their hospital gowns with their heads bowed low were released on Sunday Credit:

But experts have urged caution amid the global intrigue surrounding the boys’ stories, saying they would all need to be monitored closely for signs of psychological distress that could take months to manifest and could be triggered by probing media interviews.

Medics said the boys were only considered mentally strong enough on Saturday to hear the news of Mr Kunan. When told how Mr Kunan died while installing oxygen tanks along the twisting passageways of the cave many of the boys cried before penning tributes on a drawing of the diver.

"All cried and expressed their condolences by writing messages on a drawing of Lieutenant Commander Saman and observed one minute of silence for him," Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk, permanent secretary at the health ministry, said in the statement on Sunday.

"They also thanked him and promised to be good boys."

Attention had shifted away from the boys’ recovery in recent days to the team of British divers who discovered the missing football team and then helped lead an international rescue effort.

The divers were hailed heroes on their return to Britain, with more details emerging of the mission to extract the boys through murky waters and through narrow underwater passageways.

Reflecting on the mission, Jason Mallinson, 50, a father-of-one from Huddersfield, said the death of Mr Kunan was the wake up call to the Thai Navy that illuminated how crucial the British crew’s expertise would be.

Chris Jewell, a British diver who travelled to Thailand to help, gave credit to the “brave” children who “showed no signs of panic”Credit:

“They realised they were way out of their depth and they had been lucky to get those guys into that last chamber with the boys and we were the only people who could remedy the situation,” he told the Mail on Sunday.

Mr Mallinson described how he was called to action by an emergency text message from the British Cave Rescue Council while at work in Scunthorpe and flew out to Thailand to help immediately.

Chris Jewell, another British diver who travelled to Thailand with Mr Mallinson to help, gave credit to the “brave” children who “showed no signs of panic” as he gently pushed them under the surface of the water in the cave system and guided them through the dark to safety.

He also described how he become lost in the dark underwater for four minutes while carrying a child to safety before finally finding the guideline and surfacing to complete the rescue. 

The boys were expected to watch a recording of the World Cup final on Monday morning after doctors ruled out allowing them to stay up late to view the match live on Sunday night.

"Given that the final will be broadcast quite late our time, and we want the boys to rest and not to be looking at screens too much, we will probably record the final and show it to them later," said the official the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital.

The world football governing body FIFA had invited the boys and their coach to attend the final in Moscow but they can not go for medical reasons.

Last week, Manchester United invited the "Wild Boars" to watch a match at their Old Trafford ground.

About 4,000 volunteers were on Sunday taking part in a clean-up of the area around the Tham Luang cave. A park area around the mouth got trampled by the hundreds of rescuers, and media workers, who flocked to help with the mission and to report on it.

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