Defying the odds, all 12 boys and their soccer coach were successfully rescued from the flooded Tham Luang cave complex where they were trapped for 18 days.
Now, the family of the one person who lost their life during the 18-day rescue effort, former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Gunan, have given their first interview.
Petty Officer First Class Gunan died on Friday when he ran out of oxygen while helping to set up air tanks along the cave’s rescue route to help the boys escape, smh.com.au reports. Another member of his dive team tried to administer first aid to the 38-year-old in the water, but it was too late.
His wife, Waleeporn Gunan, told the BBC that she was “proud” of her late husband.
“If you ask me if I’m sad, it’s like I have died but am still alive, [but I] use my pride to repress my sadness,” she said, adding of her husband, “You are the hero in my heart.”
Mrs Gunan said her husband was actively involved in charity work and loved helping others, news.com.au reports.
“Every day before we left for work we said we loved each other,” she said.
The Thai Navy SEALs posted a tribute to Gunan on Facebook after news of his death was made public.
“He was a very capable SEAL and a triathlete who liked adventure sports,” they wrote. “Although he resigned from the unit, he still loved and had a good connection with all the SEALs.”
“His determination and good intention will always be in the heart of all SEAL brothers. Today, you get some good rest. We will complete the mission for you.”
Thailand’s King has said that Gunan will be given a funeral with full honours.