BANGKOK (AP) — One of the 12 boys rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand in 2018 after being trapped for more than two weeks has died in England, where he was attending a sports academy, the foundation sponsoring his studies said Wednesday.
Duangphet “Dom” Phromthep, 17, was found unconscious Sunday in his room at the Brooke House College Football Academy in Leicestershire and was taken to a hospital where he died Tuesday, Thailand’s Zico Foundation said. The school also confirmed his death.
“This event has left our college community deeply saddened and shaken,” school principal Ian Smith said in a statement. “We unite in grief with all of Dom’s family, friends, former teammates and those involved in all parts of his life, as well as everyone affected in any way by this loss in Thailand and throughout the college’s global family.”
Former Thai national team captain and coach Kiatisuk Senamuang, who heads the Zico Foundation, said in an online news conference that he did not know the cause of death and that Dom had apparently been in good health.
Dom was the captain of the Wild Boars, a youth soccer team in the northern Thai province of Chiang Rai. Twelve members of the team, ages 11 to 16, and their coach were exploring the Tham Luang cave complex in June 2018 when they were trapped by rapidly rising floodwaters. A massive search and rescue operation involving international divers was launched.
The boys spent nine nights lost in the cave, living on very little food and water, before a diver spotted them deep in the twisting cave complex huddled on a patch of dirt above the rising water line. The moment was captured on video and soon broadcast to the world.
It was another eight days before all were safely rescued. A team of expert divers guided each of the boys out of the cave on special stretchers after anesthetizing them to keep them calm enough to transport. The operation required placing oxygen canisters along the path where the divers maneuvered through dark, tight and twisting passageways filled with muddy water and strong currents.
Dom’s mother, who joined the online news conference, said she hoped a Buddhist monk in England could conduct rites for Dom so his spirit would not be trapped where he died according to Buddhist beliefs.
The story of the Wild Boars, which was covered intensely by international media, has been retold in several movies, including Ron Howard’s 2022 feature film “Thirteen Lives” and the 2021 documentary “The Rescue.”