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Thai soccer player rescued from cave dies at 17

Ambulance (Dreamstime/TNS)
February 19, 2023

A teenager who was rescued after being trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand in 2018 has died five years later, at 17.

Duangphet Promthep was one of 13 members of a junior association football team who became trapped inside the Tham Luang in June and July of 2018. Promthep and his teammates and coach were safely recovered after a daring rescue by an international team of divers and cave explorers that cost the lives of two members of the Thai Navy SEALs.

In the years since that cave rescue, Promthep had gone on to win a scholarship to play soccer at Brooke House College Football Academy in Leicestershire, England. On Sunday, the Leicestershire Police informed CNN that Promthep had died.

The exact cause of Promthep’s death is unclear, but the BBC reported that the teenager was found unconscious in his dorm at the academy. Reports from his home country had suggested he sustained a fatal head injury.

Promthep had won his scholarship to the soccer academy in August, to the congratulations of his fellow teammates. He had celebrated the scholarship in an Instagram post, saying “Today my dream has come true.”

The international effort to rescue Promthep and his teammates freom Tham Luang cave had been a celebrated achievement. Cave explorer Vernon Unsworth was a member of the team that rescued the trapped soccer players.

“Life is cruel,” Unsworth said, upon learning that one of the children he had helped rescued had died.

Promthep’s teammates from back home also expressed their condolences at the news.

“You told me to wait and see you play for the national team, I always believe that you would do it,” wrote teammate and fellow rescuee Prachak Sutham. “When we met the last time before you left for England, I even jokingly told you that when you come back, I would have to ask for your autograph.”

“Brother, you told me that we would be achieving our football dream… if the next world is real, I want us to play football together again, my brother Dom,” wrote another teammate, Titan Chanin Viboonrungruang. 

Ian Smith, the principal of the U.K.-based soccer academy that Promthep attended told the BBC the school was “deeply saddened and shaken” by the death.

“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,” Smith added.